Four Words that Inspired America

By Lila Adams

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great man who changed the world and inspired the future. He made a difference by helping people of color earn rights and respect. “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” He said things about people of color that have changed the perspective of many white people, and what he said is still useful today.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. He had a brother and a sister, a loving mother, and a caring father. His father preached at Ebenezer Baptist church. His mother often played the organ and sang at their church.

Young Dr. King was having fun playing together with a white friend, but the boy’s mother came and said she did not want them to play together anymore. She did not want her child to play with a Black child. Young Dr. King ran home, crying.

A few years later, at the age of 15, Dr. King graduated from Booker T. Washington High School. Because he was a prodigious student, he graduated earlier than most because he skipped the ninth and twelfth grades. He then went to and graduated from Morehouse College. After that, he went to Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania so he could become a Baptist minister, like his father. After he became a Baptist minister, Dr. King went back to college, to Boston University, to get his doctorate degree.

While Dr. King was working toward his doctorate degree, he met a woman named Coretta Scott. Dr. King fell in love and got married to her. Then he and Coretta moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where he finished his doctorate degree. He had four children: Yolanda King, Bernice King, Martin Luther King III, and Dexter King.

Dr. King gave the Bus Boycott speech after Rosa Parks had been arrested. She had been arrested for sitting in the front of the bus where only white people were permitted. He wanted a way to protest, but peacefully. The bus boycott meant that no people of color would go on the buses. Instead, they would walk to work, to their houses, to school or to wherever they needed to be. The bus boycott lasted 381 days! It helped change the law. Soon, people of color were able to sit in the front of the bus, too.

Dr. King traveled to Washington, D.C. for The March on Washington. As he prepared for what would be his most famous speech, he had no intention of mentioning anything about the dream he had. On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood before 250,000 people and began speaking. But then, Mahalia Jackson, a friend, and famous gospel singer cried out, “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” And so he did.

This speech was a defining moment for America. These are some of the highlights of his speech: “I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream … I have a dream that one day … sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood … I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character … I have a dream that one day … black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers … And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, … we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.’”

The March on Washington was peaceful and law-changing. It gave people of color the right to have full and fair employment, the right to decent housing, the right to vote and the right to have better education.

Dr. King was later awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. He was the youngest man to be awarded the Prize. He donated the prize money to the Civil Rights Movement Act.

On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was coming out of his motel room to eat dinner with his friends and was assassinated. He died at 39 years of age. Dr. King was assassinated by James Earl Ray, who would be caught and sent to prison later that year. On Dr. King’s tombstone, it says, “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty I’m Free at last.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great man. He motivated people. He helped influence the future. He saved and changed lives. He helped pave a path to many people’s freedom. He changed the wrong laws to better ones. He changed the world, just one step at a time.


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