(King's birthday is actually January 15)
Martin Luther King, Junior, well known as a champion of human rights, was awarded at least 50 honorary degrees from colleges and universities, was chosen Time Magazine Person of the Year in 1963, and was honored by a variety of other awards—including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964!
After he was assassinated in 1968, Dr. King received many posthumous honors, including a Grammy (Best Spoken Word Album), the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal. More than 730 cities in the U.S. have streets named after him—not to mention buildings, schools, memorials and other places!
King was asked about how he would want to be remembered, and he said that, if people were around for his funeral, he said they shouldn't talk about his awards, but instead:
“I'd like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others. I'd like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody.
I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. And I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.
Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”
By the way, there were people around for King's funeral. About 100,000 of them.
His Life in Photos
Time magazine has a touching (heartrending, at times) photo essay here.
His Most Iconic Speech
Listen to it here.
There are tons, but here are three that are good for kids:
A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr. by by David A. Adler: King’s life illustrated for kids
My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up With the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Christine King Farris: King’s sister offers her perspective on what influenced him
Dear Dr. King: Letters from Today's Children to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. edited by Jan Colbert and Ann McMillan Harms: A look a race relations in America today through the eyes of children
There are many memorials dedicated to Dr. King. Take a look at the beautiful Yerba Buena Gardens memorial and Maya Lin's Civil Rights Memorial Fountain.
Some people honor Dr. King by using his day to give service to others. It's easier for kids to volunteer in their own communities, but perhaps this year many families will also think of Haiti and give to the Red Cross or other organizations working at disaster relief. (To donate to the Red Cross, simply text “HAITI” to 90999.)
Here is a website with some great ideas of how kids can get involved with community service.