Martin Luther King Jr. was unafraid of many things, including political backlash and being the face of a movement that incited violent racism and doing what had to be done to motivate people to rise up against civil injustice. One thing he was certainly unafraid of was public speaking. MLK gave over 2,500 public speeches during his lifetime. These were allegedly given primarily without scripts or even notes. MLK was known as a captivating speaker whose presence could permeate massive spaces containing thousands of listeners. His presence was felt in those arenas that some historical tourists allege you can still feel it if you make the trek to the very places MLK took the podium.
If you’re ever fortunate enough to take a trip around the country and visit some of the places where history was made, don’t miss these historical landmarks where MLK gave some of his most influential speeches.
The National Mall
The National Mall is where over 100 unique national monuments sit including the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Memorial. It neighbors the U.S. Capitol and the White House, is the site of several National Park units and is known for its long stretches of green grass and pristine pathways where students can be found taking educational tours and joggers can be found out for their runs. It’s also where MLK gave his famous “I have a dream” speech on August 28, 1963 to over 250,000 people. Only 100,000 were originally anticipated. There’s one more notable national monument there: The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. It was the first memorial at the National Mall to honor an African American person.
First American Baptist Church
Taking it all the way back to the start now, here’s a look at the place where MLK gave his very first ever public speech. At just 15 years old, MLK addressed the Colored Elks Clubs of Georgia’s state convention on April 17, 1944. His speech, named “The Negro and the Constitution,” was part of an essay contest that the Elks Club had sponsored, and that young MLK had won. The First American Baptist Church was founded in 1867. It is the oldest Black church in Dublin, Georgia and it still offers weekly services to this day. The church also sponsors a yearly speech contest in honor of the famous Elks one that MLK won.
Bishop Charles Mason Temple
The Bishop Charles Mason Temple would be where MLK gave his final speech. On April 3, 1968, MLK traveled to Memphis, Tennessee. He booked a room at the Loraine Motel, known for being welcoming to Black travelers. He then went to the Bishop Charles Mason Temple to deliver his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech to thousands of listeners. The speech pertained to sanitation strikes in Memphis at the time. On April 4th, MLK was shot while standing on the balcony of his room at the Loraine Motel. Travelers wanting to honor his memory will now visit bot the Bishop Charles Mason Temple and the once Loraine Motel – which is now, appropriately, The National Civil Rights Museum.
Holt Street Baptist Church
Though MLK started speaking in front of small crowds at a young age, his first sermon addressed to thousands took place when he was 26 years old. On December 5, 1955, MLK delivered his sermon “Facing the Challenge of the New Age” to about 5,000 people at the Holt Street Baptist Church. This speech served as the opening one in the “Institute of Non-Violence and Social Change” event, which lasted a week. It was during this speech that MLK uttered the famous string of words “I have a dream” for the first time, which would later be better known from his March on Washington speech.
The Palmer House Hotel
Having undergone many renovations, this historic location won’t look much like it did when MLK spoke there. However, dedicated followers of MLK still consider The Palmer House Hotel (now a Hilton hotel) an important place in the history of the great activist. In 1967, MLK gave his “The Three Evils of Society” speech at the National Conference on New Politics, which took place at the Palmer House Hotel. His famous speech linked racism, materialism and militarism (sometimes discussed as racism, poverty and war), and was a speech that some historians say would be a prophecy for the current state of America.
State Capitol in Alabama
The State Capitol in Montgomery Alabama is where MLK delivered his speech “Our God Is Marching On” (also known as “How Long, Not Long.”) It gets its second known title from the excerpt “”How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” The speech came at the end of the famous march from Selma to Montgomery, in which African Americans marched to demonstrate their right to vote. Delivered on March 25, 1965, this speech is one that historians say marked the culmination of phase one of the civil rights movement, which focused on legal and political rights.
In addition to being one of the world’s top teaching institutions, Stanford University has another claim to fame: it served as the location where MLK gave his “The Other America” speech. In this speech, MLK spoke of two Americas to highlight the great divide happening between the poor and the wealthy and emphasize that this divide was the root of inequality. In some of the most chilling phrases, MLK explains, “In this America children grow up in the sunlight of opportunity. But there is another America. This other America has a daily ugliness about it that transforms the buoyancy of hope into the fatigue of despair. In this other America, men walk the streets in search for jobs that do not exist.”