On the third Monday in January, we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday meant to honor the life and legacy of the civil rights leader and encourage Americans of all backgrounds to join together in service of their communities.

Best known for his dream—not just the American Dream of economic security and prosperity, but a more inclusive dream of peace and equality—King and his dream resound in the lives and work of others who have also dared to dream for a better country and world. In “Dream Variations,” Langston Hughes says his dream is “to fling my arms wide” and dance, then

     rest at cool evening
     Beneath a tall tree
     While night comes on gently, 
          Dark like me—

while in her poem “won’t you celebrate with me,” Lucille Clifton sings a song of triumph and celebrates her daily survival as a black woman:

                  come celebrate
     with me that everyday
     something has tried to kill me
     and has failed.

For the dreamers and the activists and all those who serve the prospect of a better world, we’ve curated a selection of poems for you to share on this day of remembrance and service.

read poems for Martin Luther King Jr. Day