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085 What did Martin Luther King, Jr. do?

85. What did Martin Luther King, Jr. do?
• Fought for civil rights
• Worked for equality for all Americans

One of the most famous speeches (or a presentation spoken to many people) in American History is “I have a dream” by Martin Luther King, Jr. He made the speech as part of the civil rights movement, or the period of time when many people were working to have equal rights for whites and non-whites. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a black leader of the civil rights movement, fighting for equality (or the same treatment) for all Americans whether they were black, white, or any other color.

On August 28, 1963, about 250,000 people participated in the “March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs,” walking around Washington, DC to show how
important freedom and jobs were to them. About 80% of the people were black. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his speech called “I have a dream” (or something that he wanted to see happen). Let’s hear some of the most famous parts of the speech.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged (or evaluated) by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character (or their personality, or what they are like inside).”

In his speech, he also said: "I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former (or previous) slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood."

“Let freedom ring (or be heard everywhere). And when this happens, and when we allow freedom to ring—when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet (or town), from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children…. will be able to join hands (or hold each other’s hands) and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual (or song): "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

These are some of the important words that Martin Luther King, Jr. said that day. And these are still words that remind us (or help us remember) that there are a lot of things that must still change for the United States to have equality for all.


speech – a presentation spoken to many people
* The company president gave a speech to all of the employees, explaining why he had decided to sell the company.

civil rights movement – the period of time in the 1950s and 1960s in the United States when many people were working to have equal rights for whites and non-whites
* We learned from our teacher that the civil rights movement also helped people with disabilities begin to get fair treatment in the workplace.

equality – the idea that everyone should be treated in the same way under the law
* If women had equality with men, they would receive the same amount of money for doing the same kind of work, but they don't.

march – an event where many people walk together down a street to support an idea or to show how they feel about something
* When the war began, people who didn't like it organized a march where they would all wear black clothes.

dream – something that one wants to see happen; a vision and a hope for the future
* His dream is that his daughter will become a doctor.

to judge – to evaluate; to decide whether something is good or bad
* My grandmother always said: “Try not to judge people by what they wear, but by what they say and do.”

character – personality; what a person is like inside, not his or her physical appearance
* She has a warm, friendly character and everyone likes her.

to ring – to be heard over a great distance, usually when talking about bells
* The church bells ring every Sunday at 9:00 a.m.

to join hands – to hold one another's hands; to put another person’s hand in one's own hand to show friendship, love, or respect
* At the beginning of the wedding, the priest asked the bride and groom to join hands.