In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and called the people to unify under the refrain, “let freedom ring.”
Now, exactly 50 years later, churches, schools, and historic monuments around the nation have organized to ring their bells at 3 p.m. – the hour when King delivered his iconic “I Have A Dream Speech.”
According to ABC:
Commemorations are planned from the site of the speech in Washington to the far reaches of Alaska, where participants plan to ring cow bells along with church bells in Juneau.
The bell ringing ceremony is as symbolic as it is literal. During his speech, MLK quoted the patriotic song “My Country ’tis of Thee,” telling the audience to “let freedom ring” from the hilltops and mountains of every state in the nation.
“When we allow freedom to ring — when we let it ring from every city and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last, free at last, great God almighty, we are free at last.”
And today, from Washington D.C. to Liberia, the ring from those bells will be heard.
On Wednesday, bells will answer his call from each of the specific states King named, as well as at other sites around the nation and the world. At the Lincoln Memorial, President Barack Obama and former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter will join members of the King family and Georgia Rep. John Lewis, who also spoke at the March on Washington, in ringing a bell that hung in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., before the church was bombed in 1963, organizers said.
International commemorations will be held at London’s Trafalgar Square, as well as in the nations of Japan, Switzerland, Nepal and Liberia. London Mayor Boris Johnson has said King’s speech resonates around the world and continues to inspire people as one of the great pieces of oratory.
To see where your nearest bell-ringing ceremony will be held, click here.