(HN, Atlanta, Georgia, 1/16/12) – Today the United States pauses to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an American clergyman, activist, and prominent African-American Civil Rights leader during the 1950’s and 1960’s. He is best known for being an iconic figure in the US and around the world, who used nonviolent protest methods and followed the teachings of Indian icon Mahatma Gandhi.
A Baptist minister, King became a civil rights activist early in his career by leading the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and helping to found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, serving as its first president. King's efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. There, he implored America to deepen its values to include the vision of a color blind society, and established his reputation as one of the greatest orators in American history.
In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and racial discrimination through civil disobedience and other nonviolent means. By the time of his death in by assassination in 1968, he had refocused his efforts on ending poverty and stopping the war in Vietnam.
King was killed on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee at the Lorraine Motel by James Earl Ray at the age of 39. He was posthumously awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and Congressional Gold Medal in 2004; Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a US federal holiday in 1986.
“King had an impact on all mankind” (Perspective)
By Peggy Rodriguez
On Jan. 15, 1929, a baby boy was born in Atlanta to Michael and Alberta Christine King.
He attended school in Georgia's capital city and was able to enroll in Morehouse College after skipping a grade and completing his junior year at Booker T. Washington High School. The year was 1944 and this young man of humble beginning was only 15 years old.
His name was Michael King Jr. He and his father, Michael King Sr., both opted to change their names to Martin Luther after the religious leader who founded the Lutheran denomination in the 1500s. He spent the first few years of his college career majoring in sociology and was then ordained an associate pastor of his father's church in 1948.
While pursuing a graduate degree at Boston University, he met and married Coretta Scott. They had four children. In September 1954, he moved his family to Montgomery, Ala., where he became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. In the years to follow, he became very active in the civil rights movement and became a spokesman for nonviolent change.
"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.'"
These words, taken from arguably his most well-known speech, were delivered Aug. 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., during the March on Washington. This nonviolent protest in support of jobs and freedom for all Americans drew 200,000 people.
In 1964, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and named "Man of the Year" by Time magazine. This was the first time in history that an African American received this honor.
Upset by racial unrest, King announced a plan to implement a Poor People's Campaign. The idea behind this grassroots effort was to unite poor men and women of all walks of life and races in a campaign for economic rights.
To raise money for this campaign, King spoke in support of sanitation workers in Memphis in March 1968. The demonstration did not go well.
In turn, he planned a better organized Memphis demonstration for April 3. During that event, he gave a moving speech. As if he had some insight into his impending death, King delivered a moving speech stating, "Like anyone else, I would like to live a long life ... But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we as a people will get to the Promised Land. And I'm so happy tonight; I'm not worried about anything; I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."
The next day, April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed outside his Memphis motel room. In the blink of an eye, this great man, who had dedicated so much of his life to ensuring equality for all of mankind, was silenced. So today, as we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, please be mindful of what this day is truly about.
Recall the impact that Martin Luther King had on mankind. Remember, "all men are created equal."
--- Peggy Rodriguez's Woodville column appears each Monday in the News Messenger at http://ohne.ws/y3YEls as did this commentary.
Some of Martin Luther King Jr’s Globally Inspirational Quotes:
“Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.”
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.”
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
“I want to be the white man’s brother, not his brother-in-law.”
“If physical death is the price that I must pay to free my white brothers and sisters from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive.”
“It is incontestable and deplorable that Negroes have committed crimes; but they are derivative crimes. They are born of the greater crimes of the white society.”
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
“The good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore, brothers.”
“Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. 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.”
“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”
“We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
“We have flown the air like birds and swum the sea like fishes, but have yet to learn the simple act of walking the earth like brothers.”
“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tired into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.”
“If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.”
“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.”
“In some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”
“When we look at modern man, we have to face the fact…that modern man suffers from a kind of poverty of the spirit, which stands in glaring contrast to his scientific and technological abundance; We’ve learned to fly the air like birds, we’ve learned to swim the seas like fish, and yet we haven’t learned to walk the Earth as brothers and sisters…”
“I look forward confidently to the day when all who work for a living will be one with no thought to their separateness as Negroes, Jews, Italians or any other distinctions. This will be the day when we bring into full realization the American dream — a dream yet unfulfilled.”