Pealing Bells to Mark 50 Years Since MLK’s 'Dream' Speech

Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.

The King Center is urging communities around the world to participate in a bell-ringing ceremony this month to help commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

King Center officials say they have reached out to all 50 governors and to cities across the globe asking them to participate in the bell ringing at 3 p.m. ET on Aug. 28, or at 3 p.m. in their respective time zones.

“My father concluded his great speech with a call to ‘let freedom ring,’ and that is a challenge we will meet with a magnificent display of brotherhood and sisterhood in symbolic bell-ringing at places of worship, schools and other venues where bells are available from coast to coast and from continent to continent,” said Bernice King, King’s daughter and CEO of the King Center.

The King Center and the 50th Anniversary Coalition will host a seven-day celebration in the nation’s capital of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. King’s riveting speech was the keynote event of that march.

The bell ringing is planned as a way to allow those who can’t make the trip to Washington to participate in the celebration, according to the King Center.

On Aug. 28, 1963, King ended his speech with a call to “let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire … from the mighty mountains of New York … from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania … from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado … from the curvaceous slopes of California … from Stone Mountain of Georgia … from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee … and from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.”

Bernice King asked that participating communities come up with diverse commemorative programs that “bring people together across cultural and political lines to celebrate the common humanity in creative and uplifting ways in the spirit of the dream.”

Bell-ringing ceremonies are currently planned in communities such as Concord, N.H.; Allentown, Pa.; Lutry, Switzerland; and Tokyo, the center says.

The King Center is asking that communities wishing to participate submit a brief description of their bell-ringing event to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the civil rights movement, “Parting the Waters,” Taylor Branch wrote that King departed from his prepared text and that much of the speech’s greatness was extemporaneous.

“More than his words, the timbre of his voice projected him across the racial divide and planted him as a new founding father,” Branch wrote. “It was a fitting joke on the races that he achieved such statesmanship by setting aside his lofty text to let loose and jam, as he did regularly from two hundred podiums a year.”

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