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US Marks Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s Assassination

Visitors gather at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial for a National Park Service wreath laying ceremony at the monument of the civil rights leader in observance of his of 83rd birthday-anniversary, in Washington, January 15, 2012.

Wednesday marks 44 years since U.S. civil rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed.

Americans are honoring the anniversary with a range of events.

At the recently-completed Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, the Coalition on Political Assassinations organized a vigil Wednesday morning to call for the release of classified government records on the life and death of the slain activist.

Meanwhile, the southern city of Memphis, Tennessee, where King was assassinated, was marking the day by naming a street after him.

During the 1950s and 1960s, King led a campaign of non-violent demonstrations aimed at ending discrimination against African Americans.

His push for equal rights won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. That same year, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, which outlawed racial segregation in public places.

King died in Memphis on the night of April 4, 1968 after being shot on a motel balcony. He was just 39 years old at the time and had been in the city to lead a march for workers' rights.

More than four decades later, King's legacy is celebrated along with signs of racial progress, including the election of Barack Obama as the nation's first African-American president.

King is best remembered for his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, which united millions of people in the United States and around the world to work for racial justice.