Over 300 Communities Held 'Let Freedom Ring' Bell-Ringing Events Marking 50th Anniversary of MLK’s Dream


  On August 28th, the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” speech, children of Charleston, West Virginia answer Dr. King’s call to ‘Let Freedom Ring’ --- one of more than 300 events held that day  across the U.S. and in other countries.

 Atlanta . . . In addition to two massive marches and rallies held in Washington, D.C. commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, more than 300 groups across the nation and around the world held programs featuring symbolic bell-ringing at 3:00 p.m. (EST) on August 28th in response to Dr. King’s challenge to “Let Freedom Ring…in every village and hamlet.”

“The response to our call for bell-ringing programs marking the 50th anniversary has been wonderful beyond our hopes,” said King Center CEO Bernice A. King. “We were hoping for more than 100 programs. But we were notified of more than 300 bell-ringing events, and it’s likely that many more were held which didn’t register. The bell-ringing programs brought diverse people together all across America and encouraged them to reaffirm their commitment to the dream. We encourage communities everywhere to ‘Let Freedom Ring’ again on January 20th, the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.”    

A number of the events included political leaders, including governors and mayors, while others were as simple as a family ringing bells on the front porch of their home. Many bell-ringing events were captured in YouTube video clips (see list at end of this post).

Responding to Dr. King’s challenge to “let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire,” the Appalachian Mountain Club’s hut crew from Lakes of the Clouds organized a bell-ringing on the summit of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeastern United States.  Elsewhere in the granite state, bell-ringing events were held at 15 sites, including Dover, Isles of Shoals, Amherst, Goffstown, Keene, Madbury, Portsmouth, Plymouth State University, Sanborton and Concord, where Governor Maggie Hassan lead the proceedings.

Heeding Dr. King’s call to “let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York,” the bells of St. Eustace Episcopal Church of Lake Placid in the Adirondack Mountain range pealed in remembrance of Dr. King’s great dream.

In “the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania” students and faculty of Allegheny College in Meadville gathered to answer the Dreamer’s challenge to “let freedom ring,” lead by Dr. Kazi Joshua, director of the college Intercultural office.

To ”let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado,” a group of junior park rangers affiliated with Rocky Mountain National Park gathered for a bell-ringing event under the direction of Ranger Rich Fedorchack, chief of interpretation and education.

A bell-ringing gathering at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco organized by the American Friends Service Committee responded to Dr. King’s call to “let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.”

“But not only that,” said Dr. King. “Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain, Georgia.” And so, a group led by state Senator Emanuel Jones organized a well-attended bell-ringing event on top of Stone Mountain, Georgia (see here too), once a stronghold of hate groups, now transformed into a “stone of hope,” as Mayor Patricia Wheeler of Stone Mountain and other elected officials proudly looked on. Sen. Jones said “It is because of Dr. King’s dream that we gather on this summit. Stone Mountain once bore witness to cross-burnings and even hooded celebrations. Today is a new day…Stone Mountain stands as an enduring symbol of Dr. King’s dream…We are the dream-keepers.”

Elsewhere in Dr. King’s home state, bells pealed from Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he, his father and grandfather preached, from Atlanta City Hall atrium, The King Center’s Freedom Hall Complex, High Meadows School in Roswell, East Lake Commons in Decatur, Gwinnett College and in Atlanta's Cresco Montessori Schools, where Senior Academic Director Ms. Sadaf Mohiuddin engaged 4-5 year-old students in a comemorative bell-ringing and peace education program.

In keeping with Dr. King’s challenge, freedom also rang out on top of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee at the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, where Superintendent Cathleen Cook joined with fourth graders from Orchard Knob Elementary to help lead the celebration.

Dr. King concluded his litany with a call to ‘let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi, from every mountainside let freedom ring,” and the citizens of Jackson, Columbus, Piney Woods  and other towns in the magnolia state responded in kind. In Canton, MS nearly 100 people rang bells on the grounds of the historic courthouse Square.

In addition to the nine locations Dr. King specifically mentioned in his speech, bell ringing events were organized in more than 45 states, and the governors of Connecticut, Illinois, New Hampshire, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Utah, West Virginia and others participated in bell-ringing events commemorating Dr. King’s speech.

The Philadelphia Martin Luther King, Jr. Association for Nonviolence organized a bell-ringing ceremony at the Liberty Bell. Other famous bells rung in honor of Dr. King’s dream included the “Abolition bell” of All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, D.C.; the Netherlands Carillion in McLean, VA which was a gift of gratitude from the Dutch to the U.S. in recognition for their help in liberating Holland; and Governor Deval Patrick rang the Old South Meeting House Bell cast in 1801 by Paul Revere, at the site where the Boston Tea Party occurred.

In addition to the national bell-ringing at the Lincoln Memorial, bells rang out to mark the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s dream in many historic sites, such as: Mt. Crazy Horse (a.k.a. Mt. Rushmore) SD; Valley Forge, PA; the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford, CT; Historic St. John's Church in Richmond, where Patrick Henry delivered his "Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death" speech; the African Burial Ground National Monument in New York City; and many others.

Other bell-ringing events were organized in numerous locations across the nation besides the sites Dr. King mentioned in his “I Have a Dream” speech, including Juneau, AK; Montgomery, AL; Tucson, AZ; Merced, Sacramento, San Diego, Pasadena and Los Angeles, CA; Hamden, Norwalk, Bridgeport; Hartford, Waterbury and New Haven, CT; Orlando, Palm Beach and Jacksonville, FL; Augusta, Columbus, and Fort Benning, GA; Honolulu and Waianae, HI; Chicago and Evanston, IL; Munster, Marion and Winamac, IN; Topeka and Fort Scott, KS; Louisville, KY; Millinocket, ME; Frederick, Baltimore, Largo, Germantown, Rockville  and Bowie, MD;

More bells rang out for Dr. King in Boston, Hingham, Cambridge and Lowell, MA. Clergy of five faiths lead the bell-ringing program for metropolitan Detroit. Citizens gathered to ring bells in: Chaska, MN; Omaha, NB; Trenton, Atlantic City and Princeton, NJ; Nyack, Rochester, Seneca Falls, Peterboro and Poughkeepsie, NY; Raleigh, Southport, Asheville, Bayboro and Durham/Chapel Hill, NC; Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati, OH; Tulsa and Oklahoma City, OK; Allentown, Meadville, Scranton, Clarion and Easton, PA; Providence, RI; Columbia, Rock Hill, Charleston, Camden and Alcolu, SC;  Chattanooga and Memphis, TN; Jefferson, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston and Austin, TX; Norwich and Waterville, VT; Charlottesville, Arlington, Federicksburg, Manassas, Petersburg, Staunton and Richmond, VA; Seattle and Yakima, WA; Charleston, WV and numerous sites in the nation’s capitol.   

Outside of the U.S., the Dalai Llama delivered a message commemorating Dr. King’s speech in Dharamsala, India. In Buenos Aires, African Diaspora of Argentina held a forum on Dr. King’s dream and rang bells in response to his call to ‘Let Freedom Ring.’ In Kathmandu Nepal, Padam Lall Maharjan led the ringing of ‘gong’ bells, which have sacred significance in Nepalese traditions. Mayor Laurent Wehrli of Montreaux, Switzerland led the “I Have a Dream” commemorative bell-ringing. The Holy Trinity Church in Birmingham, U.K. held a bell-ringing ceremony, in which Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus joined with Christians in celebrating Dr. King’s dream. Also in the U.K., the At Trafalgar Square (also at this link) and at Southbank Centre in London rang the “Festival Bell” at a performing arts festival marking the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s dream. Bell-ringing commemorations of Dr. King’s dream were also held in Tokyo and Lutry, Switzerland. A group in South Africa skyped their bell-ringing in unison with Ferebee Enterprises, a Washington, D.C. organization working to empower girls. The chapel in Castillo San Felipe del Morro in Puerto Rico also rang its bronze bell in commemoration of Dr. King’s dream. 

Many of the bell-ringing groups were based in churches or partnered with churches that had bells. But the diverse groups that organized bell-ringing events also included: Teach for America; the American Palestinian Womens’ Association; the Riverside, CA Latino Voter Registration Project;  Dr. King’s Alma Mater, Morehouse College in Atlanta; the Soka Gakkai International Buddhist Altar Bell in Washington, D.C.; West Virginia University; Girls, Inc. of Oak Ridge, TN; Craters of the Moon National Monument, in Arco, ID; the City of Orlando, FL; the Granville, Ohio School System; Sojourner-Douglass College in Baltimore; the Bailey Child Care Center of Lansing, MI; the Jean LaFitte National Park in partnership with the New Orleans Fire Department; the Gandhi Foundation USA in Atlanta; the San Francisco Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition; and Sunny Sands Elementary School in Cathedral, CA, to name just a few.   

Some YouTube videos of bell-ringing events follow:

At the Lincoln Memorial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QjVp-qTUnM

Rocky Mountains, CO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FP5ZQOXss70

Asheville, NC: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJoK9sWjDSA

Pasadena, CA: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxuoqF2CTg4

Dallas: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wwWA0fvhwU

San Francisco: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5KkUTOzP4U
(sound only)

Chicago: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCgXLRmSXj0

Concord, NH: http://www.yourconcordtv.org/

(pick the channel 22 individual programs from the list in the box, then click on “Let Freedom Ring”)

Trenton: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4pNEvHjwN4

London: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yPsq-s-JGc

London again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBbTh4mZR4I

New Haven: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9k__aQcCvtA

Hingham, Mass: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4qtuZmT45E

Lowell, MA: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151697251534215

Lookout Mountain: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o69R6E9Z5og

Plymouth State University, Plymouth, NH: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKgEF0kmdQk

Charleston, WV: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fp8NHMZVuMY

(be sure to see the end of the Charleston ringing above)

Georgetown University, Wash., D.C.: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_47PwGo_mY

(not bell-ringing in this clip above, but moving anyway)

Munster, Indiana: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ootX0MQjZ9A

Waterbury, CT: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJPdc1YKU58

Richmond: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5C5JDRvH2s

Montgomery, Memphis and D.C.: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RqMpzXQfus

The Munoz family lets freedom ring: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2NhdZlEulA

Charleston South Carolina: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJKi8eFuL6g

Michigan tech, Houghton, Mich.: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ayi80acKabk

Palm Beach State College: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zz5NHA8x7QA&feature=youtu.be

Stone Mountain and Liberty Bell: http://stonemountain.11alive.com/news/news/395482-local-residents-gather-commemorate-mlks-i-have-dream-speech

Stone Mountain WAGA-TV: http://www.myfoxatlanta.com/video?clipId=9247712&autostart=true

Stone Mountain again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAPEJVRhuIs

Chapel Hill, NC: http://vimeo.com/73355592

Buenos Aires, Argentina: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SI0FPmAvHCU

Atlanta's Cresco Montessori Schools: https://www.facebook.com/waldenu/app_205830656203877?app_data={%22redirect_url%22:%22videos/video/id/422%22}

The King Center welcomes submissions of more bell-ringing events, videos and photographs to help document this historic day, when Dr. King’s followers across the nation and around the world “Let Freedom Ring.”