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Taking the Kids: Celebrating Martin Luther King

By Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

In Atlanta, visit The King Center and the Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site, which includes King's birth home, the Ebenezer Baptist Church where he was a pastor and his gravesite. Since its founding by Dr. King's widow in 1968, The King Center (and historic sites) has become a global destination and resource center visited by a nearly a million people each year. (There is also an exhibit at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.)

In Philadelphia, where there are celebrations at several museums, The Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site commemorates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with three days of free community programs that run from Saturday, Jan. 13 through Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. The historic prison offers special readings of Dr. King's 1963 landmark text "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," as well as opportunities for visitors to respond to its relevance in light of recent clashes between civil rights protesters and police. Additional programming is available Monday, Jan. 15, including family arts and crafts projects, children's stories and community electronics recycling.

In San Francisco, the Museum of the African Diaspora is offering free admission with special performances and guests. The NorCalMLK Foundation has compiled a list of events in the Bay Area.

In case you're wondering why the month of February was chosen when Martin Luther King Jr's birthday is in mid-January, it's because the precursor was a February "Negro History Week," which was created in1926 by historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Several notable birthdays of those important to the cause of civil rights fell during the month of February, namely Abraham Lincoln's (Feb. 12) and Frederick Douglass' (who celebrated his birthday on Feb. 14). It wasn't until 1976, as part of the bicentennial celebration, that the expansion to a month was officially recognized by the U.S. government, though Kent State University started the month-long celebration six years earlier.

-- In Memphis, the National Civil Rights Museum traces the civil rights movement in the United States from the 17th century onward. It is built around the former Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

-- In Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry’s Black Creativity program kicks off on Jan. 15, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and runs through Feb. 21, spotlighting the achievements made by African-Americans through hands-on workshops and events in the museum's Black Creativity Innovation Studio.

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"I have a dream," Dr. King told more than 250,000 supporters on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that memorable August day in 1963, which proved to be a seminal moment in the civil rights movement.

"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 today."

Fifty years after Dr. King's death, we can only hope we will achieve his dream one day.


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