Talking about myths and heroes
What is the definition of a hero?
Hero: noun (plural heroes)
One person who is admired for his outstanding achievements is Martin Luther King. This year (2013) we celebrate the 50th anniversary of his famous speech « I have a dream ».
Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights activist in the 1950s and 1960s. He led non-violent protests to fight for the rights of all people including African Americans. He hoped that America and the world could become a society where race would not impact a person’s civil rights. Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, GA on January 15, 1929. He went to Booker T. Washington High School. He was so smart that he skipped two grades in high school and started his college education at Morehouse College at the young age of fifteen. Martin’s father was a preacher which inspired Martin to pursue the ministry as well.
In his first major civil rights action, Martin Luther King Jr. led the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This started when Rosa Parks refused to move to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. As a result, Martin led a boycott of the public transportation system. The boycott lasted for over a year. It was very tense at times. Martin was arrested and his house was bombed, but in the end he prevailed and segregation on the Montgomery busses ended.
In 1963 Martin Luther King, Jr. helped to organize the famous March on Washington. Over 250,000 people attended this march in an effort to show the importance of civil rights legislation. They hoped for an end to segregation in public schools, protection from police abuse, and hoped to get laws preventing discrimination in employment. It was at this march where Martin gave his « I have a Dream » speech. This speech has become one of the most famous speeches in history. The march and Martin’s speech were a success. The Civil Rights Act was passed a year later in 1964.
Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4. 1968 in Memphis, TN. He was shot by James Earl Ray while standing on the balcony of his hotel.
Exchange this information with another student or use them in your presentations:
Did you know????
- King was the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
- Martin Luther King Day is a national holiday in the USA (3rd Monday of January)
- There are over 730 streets in the United States named after Martin Luther King
- One of his main influences was Mohandas Gandhi who taught protesting in a non-violent manner.
- The name on his original birth certificate is Michael King. This was a mistake, however. He was supposed to be named after his father who was named for the leader of the Christian reformation movement, Martin Luther.
- He is often referred to by his initials MLK.
To find out more about Martin Luther King (MLK) and his famous speech you can:
– Visit the BBC history website
– Read and listen to the article on VOA
– Try this listening activity (listen to part of the famous speech)
– Watch the animated film about Martin Luther King’s life
Cartoons for discussion: