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A House Where History Was Made

A house where Martin Luther King, Jr., planned a famous civil rights march is set to open to the public.
Martin Luther King, Coretta Scott King, John Lewis, and other civil rights activists walk down a street, some carrying American flags.
William Lovelace—Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Martin Luther King, Jr., his wife Coretta Scott King, and other civil rights activists march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to demand equal voting rights.

A house in Selma, Alabama, where Martin Luther King, Jr., planned a famous civil rights march is being relocated and will soon be open to the public. The house will be moved to Dearborn, Michigan, to be part of a history museum called Greenfield Village.

Jawana Jackson, who grew up in the house, sold it to the Henry Ford Foundation so it could be recognized for its part in the civil rights movement. Jackson was 4 years old in 1965, when King and other civil rights leaders arrived at the house to plan marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in support of voting rights for Black Americans. The march was one of many that King and other leaders organized to protest racist laws and policies. While at the house, King had telephone conversations with U.S. president Lyndon Johnson. He urged President Johnson to support legislation expanding voting rights and protections to Black Americans. That same year, the U.S. Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Jackson’s parents offered King, an old friend who lived in Montgomery, the use of their home because they knew his work would be important to Jawana’s future.

“[Jawana] and children in this country and all around the world … deserve a better, a more even, a more just society. Whatever we can do to support you, we’re here,” Sullivan Jackson told King, according to the Pensacola News Journal.

“It became increasingly clearer to me that the house belonged to the world, and quite frankly, The Henry Ford [Foundation] was the place that I always felt in my heart that it needed to be,” Jawana Jackson told the Associated Press.

The foundation runs Greenfield Village, a history museum in Michigan that contains more than 80 historic structures. Soon, the Jackson home will be one of them. Officials are dismantling the home so it can be transported to Dearborn, where it will be rebuilt. Once open to the public, the home will contain some of King’s neckties and pants, as well as furnishings dating back to 1965.

The home is expected to open in the next three years.

Did You Know?

Greenfield Village includes a laboratory used by Thomas Edison, a courthouse where Abraham Lincoln tried cases as a young lawyer, and the home where the Wright brothers spent some of their childhood.
Edison – Mark Cameron (CC BY 2.0), Wright and Lincoln – From the Collections of The Henry Ford

Making MLK Day a Reality

Black and white photo of Coretta Scott King seated behind a microphone.
Bettmann/Getty Images
Coretta Scott King was a civil rights activist whose work helped bring about Martin Luther King, Jr., Day.

January 15, 2024, is Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, a U.S. holiday that marks King’s birthday and honors the civil rights leader. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day was established in 1983. But the origins of the holiday stretch back much further.

U.S. congressman John Conyers introduced legislation to honor King’s birthday in April 1968, just days after the civil rights leader was assassinated. Although Conyers had support from Black members of Congress, it was not enough to get the bill put up for a vote. He would reintroduce the bill every year.

During the 1970s, due partly to the hard work of King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, public support for the bill grew stronger. Congressional support also increased, and by 1979, the bill had enough backing to be voted on. But even with support from U.S. president Jimmy Carter and a petition with 300,000 signatures, Congress rejected the bill by five votes.

By 1983, public support for formal recognition of King was overwhelming. That year, both houses of Congress voted to designate the third January of each year as Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. President Ronald Reagan signed the bill into law on November 2, 1983.

The Life of a Civil Rights Leader

Click through the slideshow to learn about the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. Still curious? Check out Britannica for even more.

WORD OF THE DAY

venerate

PART OF SPEECH:
verb
Definition:
: to feel or show deep respect for
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