|Dancers from the Kim Sung-hua Korean Dance Academy participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. parade in Los Angeles on Monday. (AP-Yonhap News)|
ATLANTA (AP) ― Hundreds of people filled Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Monday to remember and reflect on the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., one of many events across the nation to honor the slain civil rights leader.
The service at Ebenezer featured prayers, songs, music and speakers. Across the country, there were also speeches, parades, marches and community service projects to honor King, an Atlanta native.
About 50 years ago today, King had just appeared on the cover of Time magazine as its Man of the Year, and the nation was on the cusp of passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But many of the themes of the civil rights struggle, such a as poverty, violence and voting rights, still resonate with people.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said there were not many states that can boast a native son that merits a national holiday before saying, “but we Georgians can.”
Deal said this year he would work with state legislators to find an appropriate way to honor the Nobel Peace Prize winner at the Georgia Capitol, which drew a standing ovation from the audience. He did not give any specifics, but civil rights leaders have suggested a statue at the state Capitol.
President Barack Obama honored Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of service by helping a soup kitchen prepare its daily meals and a host of administration figures fanned out across the capital to appear at holiday events.
Vice President Joe Biden addressed the National Action Network’s MLK Breakfast, urging them to protect voting rights.
New York City’s new Mayor Bill de Blasio marked the day by talking about economic inequality, saying it was “closing doors for hard-working people in this city and all over this country.”
“We have a city sadly divided between those with opportunity, with the means to fully partake of that opportunity, and those whose dreams of a better life are being deferred again and again,” he told an audience at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
In Memphis, Tennessee, where King was assassinated, an audio recording of an interview with King was played at the National Civil Rights Museum. The recording sheds new light on a phone call President John F. Kennedy made to King’s wife more than 50 years ago.
Historians generally agree Kennedy’s phone call to Coretta Scott King expressing concern over her husband’s arrest in October 1960 ― and Robert Kennedy’s work behind the scenes to get King released ― helped JFK win the White House.
The reel-to-reel audiotape was discovered by a man cleaning out his father’s attic. The father, an insurance salesman, had interviewed King for a book he was writing, but never completed it and stored the recording with other interviews he’d done.
King was born Jan. 15, 1929, and he would’ve been 85 years old. The federal holiday is the third Monday in January and has been celebrated since 1986.