As our country undergoes a change in leadership this week, it is more fitting than ever that we pause and recognize a great leader in our nation’s history, Martin Luther King Jr. His voice of unity and justice is so pure and hopeful. MLK’s path is worthy of reflection to see how we can honor his vision.
Throughout the 50’s and 60’s, the civil rights movement was a struggle for equal rights for African Americans. While the Civil War abolished slavery, it did not end the prejudice and racism that devoured America in the 50’s and 60’s, especially in the south. Jim Crow laws were created to separate African Americans from white Americans. While this was more prevalent in the south, African Americans still faced discrimination in the north when it came to jobs, purchasing a house, or education. The African American community grew tired and desperate for change. Although there were many people who rose to fight against this injustice, one man stood out amongst the rest, whose dream could never be wavered.
Martin Luther King Jr. was born on the 15th of January in 1929. King came from a family of traditions and church. His father and maternal grandfather were both Baptist preachers. His parents were both educated and he received an education as well. Although he had a secure upbringing, this did not prevent MLK from experiencing prejudice himself. He went to college to study medicine and law but then decided in his senior year to study ministry. After graduation, King studied Mohandas Ghandi’s nonviolent philosophy and it wasn't long before he became an important voice in the civil rights movement.
As King became more prominent in the fight for civil rights, he became the target for many attacks. In 1958, an attempt on King’s life was made. He survived the attack. This violence deepened his faith and his dedication to nonviolent protests. He said, “The experience of these last few days has deepened my faith in the relevance of the spirit of nonviolence, if necessary social change is peacefully to take place.”
Then, on August 28, 1963, the March on Washington took place. More than 200,000 people came together to peacefully march with a purpose to change legislation. The highlight of that march was MLK himself, giving the most important and well-known speech to the American people.
"...When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, Black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness....
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal…’”
Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on the fourth of April, 1968. News of his death prompted racial violence throughout America. His death shattered many hearts but his words acted as a lighthouse, helping bring people together. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a U.S holiday in King’s honor. On the third Monday of January, Martin Luther King day was first observed in 1986. His name rings forever in our hearts. His voice echoes throughout America. Martin Luther King Jr was a true American hero whose dream never faltered and whose dream lives in us, the American people.
"Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.” The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute, 4 Aug. 2020, kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/assassination-martin-luther-king-jr.
Lewis, David L. “The Southern Christian Leadership Conference.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 15 Jan. 2021, www.britannica.com/biography/Martin-Luther-King-Jr/The-Southern-Christian-Leadership-Conference.
History.com Editors. “Martin Luther King, Jr.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 9 Nov. 2009, www.history.com/topics/black-history/martin-luther-king-jr.
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