By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer
On April 4, 1968, American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. His powerful message about love overcoming fear and the need for equality among people, especially between whites and blacks, led to major changes in the law and transformed the heart of the USA. His assassin, James Earl Ray, was later caught and sentenced to life in prison.
Martin Luther King, Jr. will forever be remembered for his humble, yet unconquerable spirit, as well as the famous speeches he delivered during church sermons and protest marches. King encouraged “civil disobedience” among his followers, which meant breaking racist laws with non-violent resistance and accepting imprisonment if necessary.
After his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech during the 1963 March on Washington, in which he preached the value of compassion for your fellow man and the nobility of the human spirit, the reverend became known as one of the greatest speakers of all time. In 1964, King was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in fighting racial inequality with nonviolence.
Now, hundreds of streets have been named after him, an American federal holiday is celebrated each year around his January 15 birthday, and a memorial statue of King was opened to the public in 2011 at the National Mall.