David Soleil, a founder of the Sudbury School of Atlanta, brought students and parents to the hike. He read passages from King's speech as they progressed.
"This is a place that has just had a history of racism and pain," he said. "But we're here. And we're fulfilling that dream that freedom is going to ring from Stone Mountain. Even in places that birth hate, that we can still come and birth love."
At the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kan., Republican Gov. Sam Brownback joined hands with a pastor to ring a silver bell at a site commemorating the landmark Supreme Court decision outlawing segregated schools.
Brownback said King was a prophet but didn't live to see his dream or words come true.
"They will come true," he said. "We are on the path for them to come true."
In Oklahoma City, a crowd of about 75 people gathered at the Oklahoma History Center to mark the occasion. Oklahoma County District Court Judge Bernard Jones said King's "Dream" speech was a "game changer" for the nation that marked the beginning of a movement from "darkness to light."
"Dr. King's legacy is about all of us, which is why we must do a little more introspection — or look inward — and ask ourselves if we have been good stewards of that legacy," he said. He said people should be thinking about the speech and its legacy every single day.
While Alaska wasn't mentioned in King's speech, residents there found a unique way to commemorate the speech. A small group gathered in the courthouse plaza in Juneau, Alaska, across from the state Capitol, to ring bear bells, cowbells and hand bells at the appointed time.
The group — which included the local police chief — joined hands to sing "We Shall Overcome."
Charmaine Weeks, a housewife, called the 50th anniversary of the speech a momentous occasion. "And I think across the country everyone recognizes that. And it's important that everyone, whether it's in the Last Frontier, you know, or in Washington, D.C., that you mark it, however that is," she said.
Not everyone was celebrating the nation's progress, however. Dr. Lucienna Numa, 85, a Haitian native who attended the 1963 March on Washington, said racial disparities persist.
"What I feel really is a lot of sadness because we were all so hopeful when this happened, and when we look at the condition of the blacks here, so little has changed in fact," she said, while visiting New York City's African Burial Ground National Monument. "On the surface you can say a lot has happened but the basic feeling here, is that we are not the same, we are not part of it."
"Deep inside, nothing has changed."
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Ray Henry in Stone Mountain, Ga.; Lucas Johnson in Lookout Mountain, Tenn.; Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska; Kristi Eaton in Oklahoma City; John Milburn in Topeka, Kan.; and Deepti Hajela in New York City.