How to Celebrate Martin Luther King Day

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. helped millions of people in the fight for racial equality. As a scholar, pastor and civil rights leader, he dedicated his life to helping others by leading protests against segregation and other civil rights issues in the U.S.

Martin Luther King Day honors "the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service that so radiantly defined Dr. King's character and empowered his leadership," says his wife, Coretta Scott King on The King Center's website. "On this holiday, we commemorate the universal, unconditional love, forgiveness and nonviolence that empowered his revolutionary spirit."

From his work on the executive committee of the NAACP, to his role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Dr. King inspired change from grassroots campaigns, to U.S. Supreme Court legislation. When he was only 35-years-old he earned the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Tragically, despite his work as a leader and humanitarian, King was assassinated during a protest for garbage workers in Memphis, TN on April 4, 1968.

Find out how you can commemorate the life of this great civil rights leader, who was born on January 15, 1929 and whose work and words inspired fundamental changes to our nation.

Things You'll Need

  • Gospel Tapes Or CDs
  • Southern Cookbooks


    • 1

      Research Dr. King's life. If you don't have time to read a biography of Martin Luther King Jr., explore his accomplishments online to gather historical facts about him. A few examples are: the protest against the Montgomery, Alabama bus laws in 1955; his peaceful march with 250,000 people on Washington, D.C. in 1963 where he delivered his "I Have a Dream Speech"; his countless articles and five books about racism and equality; and unfortunately, his assassination in 1968. For extra credit, brush up on leadership techniques from Gandhi and check out Henry David Thoreau's essay "Civil Disobedience," both people inspired Dr. King in his non-violent civil rights campaigns.

    • 2

      Attend a church service or event commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. Reverend King's faith and role as a pastor helped him persevere through hard times and if he were alive today, he'd probably be delighted if everyone attended a place of worship in his honor. Check your local community center or church to see if it's having special MLK Day events. If you have any kids, bring them along for at least a couple of hours, so they can learn the importance of the day too.

    • 3

      Watch a documentary about the civil rights movement. If you have cable, many channels will feature special programming about Martin Luther King, Jr., including documentaries about his life and about the civil rights movement in general. Once again, round up your kids and friends to let them see why this is an important holiday.

    • 4

      Honor Martin Luther King Jr.'s heritage. Serve Southern food, play some gospel music and discuss the successes and challenges Dr. King faced during his lifetime. Examine how his work changed people's lives to celebrate his birthday. Despite the somber and tragic times he encountered, his legacy is always a cause for celebration and opportunity to learn U.S. history.

    • 5

      Finally, please be respectful even if you do not observe Martin Luther King Day. Observance of the holiday has increased since 1983 when President Ronald Regan made it an official federal holiday. Many businesses and schools are closed. Employees and students mark the day with celebrations, seminars, volunteer work and religious services. Find your own special way to honor the holiday and pay respect to a great man whose legacy has forever changed equality in the United States.

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