Remembering Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders

If he were alive, Martin Luther King Jr. would be celebrating his 84th birthday this weekend. The life of the civil rights leader is being remembered across the country with marches, speeches, exhibits and memorial services. In Central Kentucky several events are planned. King, a minister, Nobel Peace Prize winner and leader in America's civil rights movement, gave his most famous speech in 1963, calling for an end to racial discrimination that later became known as the "I Have a Dream" speech. He was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis, Tenn. The national holiday was set in 1983 as the third Monday of January. Coincidentally, the inauguration of the second term of President Barack Obama will take place on MLK Day.

Other civil rights leaders

Herald-Leader graphic artist Chris Ware has created an article called "Did You Know?" for the February issue of Cobblestone, a magazine about U.S. history for ages 9-14. In "Did You Know," Ware shares information about four black women. Here's a sneak peek at his work:

In the 1950s and '60s, black women were fighting for their rights as blacks and as women. Here's a look at some remarkable black females who made a difference.

On Sept. 25, 1957, the National Guard escorted Elizabeth Eckford and eight other students into the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Ark. This group of students became known as the Little Rock Nine. It was against the law to segregate students, but it took these nine young people facing abuse to test enforcement of the law. Ultimately, the high school was desegregated.

On Nov. 14, 1960, 6-year-old Ruby Bridges entered her neighborhood elementary school in New Orleans. Ruby was the first black student to attend the all-white school. Protected by federal marshals, she bravely walked past angry protesters. She did well as a student and made a difference for other blacks.

Ella Baker had a strong sense of social justice all her life. She was one of the first staff members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In 1960, she guided and advised a group of university students to form their own civil rights organization: the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. She became a strong supporter and mentor to the committee members and stressed the importance of individual involvement.

While on a bus taking her and other blacks to register to vote in Mississippi, Fannie Lou Hamer began singing songs to keep up the courage of her companions. Trying to register to vote in the South had led to the deaths of blacks. Hamer was badly beaten and jailed in 1962. Still, she refused to let that stop her, and she became an important activist for black voting rights.

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