Marches, events to mark anniversary of King's 'dream' speech

Wed Aug 21, 2013 5:21am EDT
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By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Marches, speeches and global bell-ringing are set to mark the 50th anniversary this month of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr's "I have a dream" speech, a key event in the struggle of African Americans for racial equality.

The week of commemorations in Washington will culminate on August 28, when President Barack Obama, the first black U.S. president, will speak at the Lincoln Memorial 50 years to the day after King made his historic address at the site.

King, an advocate of non-violence, was among six organizers of the 1963 March on Washington, a rally for jobs and freedom. King led about 250,000 marchers to the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall and delivered his signature "I have a dream" speech from its steps.

The March on Washington helped pressure Congress to pass the landmark Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts in 1964 and 1965, respectively. The Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in June, and Obama has called that ruling a setback.

King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. A white drifter assassinated him in 1968 at age 39.


Events in Washington will kick off on Wednesday with a commemorative service at Mount Airy Baptist Church. Seminars on women and young people in the civil rights movement and on March on Washington figures Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph will take place in the following days.

Civil rights groups the National Urban League and King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) will also be holding events in Washington. The SCLC's international convention on Friday will feature debates on race and poverty and on voting rights.   Continued...

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is seen free of its scaffolding in Washington August 20, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque