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Chicago museums introduce MLK to new generations

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

America remembers Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday. The fight for civil rights that he led was loud, rough and sometimes violent. He inspired great change, but there is still much work to be done.

It's technically not Dr. King's birthday, but Monday is the day we observe the civil rights leader. King was born Jan. 15, 1929, and the federal holiday is the third Monday in January.

Most schools are closed, along with all government offices, post offices and many banks. Community groups in southern Illinois planned observances, ceremonies and other events in places like Swansea, East St. Louis, Belleville and Edwardsville.

Governor Quinn and other dignitaries gathered for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Junior breakfast Monday morning, to kick off the holiday. U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk put out a statement saying the best way to honor King was to teach tolerance, personal dignity and economic empowerment.

Students at Eastern Illinois University planned a candlelight vigil and march. Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon said she was going to participate in a service day in the Chicago suburbs and then attend an event at the Dusable Museum of African American History.

Thousands of Chicagoans spent the holiday at DuSable. It's a popular day to visit the museum and learn about Dr. King's connections to Chicago.

To celebrate Dr. King's life and recognize the movements his work inspired, the South Side museum  remembers several significant events in the nation's move toward equality.

New exhibits opened Monday, including stage performances, live actors posing as historic figures and hands-on activities for kids. Families traditionally re-discover DuSable on this holiday, when kids and parents have the day off.

Dusable's Bonnie DeShong said the museum will host a rendition of the play "The Meeting," which dramatizes a fictional meeting between Malcolm X and Dr. King.

It's been 50 years since the height of the civil rights movement. Dusable's exhibits tell the stories that happened before, during and after King's influence, including Chicago's election of its first African American mayor.

President Barack Obama is quoted in museum exhibits, acknowledging the thousands who courageously stood up at a risky time to make change possible at the highest levels.

The Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier is also putting on a performance - a play called "What Does It Mean, Dr. King?" After the play is over, the audience members are encouraged to write a letter to Dr. King, to express what they felt and learned about the day.

The play will run four times on Monday. Showtimes begin at 11 a.m. Monday. It's free with general admission to the museum, but space is limited.

Evanston residents are celebrating Dr. King with the Diverse Evanston Walks United later on Monday, at the Nichols Concert Hall.

This is a free, youth-driven event that uses kids to remember the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. The event will feature guest speakers, performances and interactive anti-violence workshops. But, most importantly, they will be presented through the eyes and efforts of our community's children.

Dr. King once asked said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?" 

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White was in Highland Park Monday morning, where residents answered that question with a day of service. White headlined the 10 a.m. event at the Highland Park Recreation Center, where folks from around the city gathered to honor Dr. by doing what he asked – by giving back to others in their community.

Mitzi Miller, the Editor-In-Chief of Jet Magazine at Johnson Publishing Company, shared never before seen photos of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from the Ebony Collection on FOX 32 News at Noon Monday.

Later in the day, a new mural in honor of Dr. King was unveiled in the North Lawndale neighborhood. It is part of a larger exhibit at the MLK Fair Housing Exhibit Center.

You can own your own piece of history. Check out the photos for sale on Ebony magazine's website.

There are certain things about Dr. King we are all taught in grade school. But it's some of the little known facts about him that may intrigue the kids of Chicago to open a book and learn more.

There are plenty of fascinating facts about Dr. Martin Luther King that don't often make the history books. The first revolves around a little word called "copyright."

While we may all have the images from Dr. King's iconic "I Have a Dream" speech chiseled into our memories, it is actually quite difficult to share the footage – because it's actually private property.

That means its costs money to use it legally. The public, including students learning about the Civil Rights Movement, can only legally hear small bites of it. The King family owns the rights to the 17-minute speech and have gone to court against CBS and USA Today to protect their property.

Another interesting fact about the civil rights leader is that he received a C in public speaking at seminary school in Chester, Penn. During his first year, one of his professors thought he wasn't quite up to snuff.

But Dr. King eventually showed him. He was named valedictorian with straight A's at the end of his third and final year at seminary.

Dr. King improvised much of that speech, including its title passage. Speech-writer Clarence B. Jones was working on the words up to the moment that Dr. King took to the podium. Jones said the "dream" reference was not actually in the speech - King added it live.

Did you know that someone actually owns Dr. King's physical copy of the "I Have a Dream" speech?

George Raveling is a retired college basketball coach. He was a basketball player at Villanova when Dr. King gave the speech, and he was spotted in the crowd and asked to be a bodyguard on stage. When he asked King for the paper copy after the speech was over, he obliged. Raveling has the speech locked away in a safe place.

Another little known fact is that the audience almost never heard the speech at all. An expensive sound system was installed at the event, but right before it was set to begin, it was sabotaged.

Luckily Attorney General Robert Kennedy enlisted the Army Corps of Engineers to fix the system and save the day at the very last minute.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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