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Web celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.

Sites around the Web pay tribute to the slain civil rights leader on the federal holiday honoring what would have been his 70th birthday.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream lives on online, with sites around the Web paying tribute to the slain civil rights leader on the federal holiday honoring what would have been his 70th birthday.

The many sites offering information on King's legacy also are a testament to the growing number of minority and cultural groups getting wired. According to online market research firm Cyber Dialogue, African Americans are the fastest-growing group online, with some 3.3 million regularly accessing the Internet.

The increasing diversification of the Internet is perhaps best illustrated by a King tribute site hosted by online magazine With a family friendly guide to teaching children "the important lessons and values of this holiday" on its Jewish holidays link, the site includes information on how to talk to children about racism, a primer on black Jewry, and even some (presumably kosher) recipes created to honor the onetime reverend of Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church and founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Other sites highlighting the observance of the King holiday--which first was proposed four days after King was assassinated in 1968 but wasn't officially recognized until 1983--archive the fight to earn a permanent place for King in history books and document how much progress has been made in the civil rights movement he is widely credited with touching off.

Perhaps the most definitive sites, though unfortunately the least technologically and graphically rich, come from the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in King's hometown of Atlanta. Directed by King's son Dexter Scott King, the organization has put together an honor roll of companies providing a paid King holiday as well as a chronology of the struggle to win recognition of a King holiday from the federal government.

The Seattle Times has compiled a guide to how the holiday has evolved in its 14 years and how it is celebrated. It includes a timeline of milestones in the civil rights movement, audio clips from selected King speeches, and a look at King's legacy.

CNN also has a Martin Luther King Jr. Day page, featuring news about the holiday and links to related sites. Like the Seattle Times, the network also provides a discussion forum in which visitors can post personal reflections on the holiday and the man it memorializes.

"I learn more about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. each year Americans observe this national holiday in his honor," wrote K.R. Murty, a member of the CNN Interactive community. "The more I learn about him, the more I respect him." Other King Day sites drive home the point of how much work still must be done to realize King's dream of a colorblind society. Editorials and chat examine the racism that persists despite strides made by those who picked up where King left off after he was cut down in his prime during one of the most tumultuous years in American history.

Black community site NetNoir has launched a special site in honor of King's birthday, with a biography that details his roles as a leader, preacher, educator, father, husband, and hero. It also stirs up some controversy and debate with an article examining a side of King that has come to light since his death--called the "Unwanted legacy of Martin Luther King Jr."--and invites visitors to learn more about MLK's life with books available at the site's bookstore.

Also advocating further education about King and his teachings is a site from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that has a guide to available materials suitable for teachers.

Do Something, a national nonprofit that provides training, guidance, and financial resources to emerging young leaders, also has a site honoring the holiday. It kicks off a two-week campaign encouraging students to perform "acts of kindness and acts of justice" in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.

The online activism related to the King holiday is directly related to the growing presence of African Americans in cyberspace. Up until recently, according to Cyber Dialogue analyst Scott Reents, blacks didn't represent a high enough percentage of online users to be statistically significant. But that changed rapidly, he said, noting that African Americans have seen 90 percent growth in Internet usage during the past 18 months--equally tracking the growth rate of white Internet users.

Such parity certainly would make Dr. King proud, as would the use of the Internet by various minority groups to nonviolently promote their causes and increase awareness of the challenges they continue to face.

"Black people are coming to rely on the Net as a way to really communicate with each other and look for information that will help them get in touch with the community," said NetNoir chief technology officer Malcolm CasSelle. "People find that it's an empowering medium."