Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
“The time is always right to do what is right.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (image: africawithin.com)
by: Grayson Leverenz
One of the truly great American leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a life of purpose.
After Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery in the US with the Emancipation Proclamation and the ratification of the 13th Constitutional Amendment in the 1860’s, African-Americans continued to suffer under segregation laws for almost 100 years. Schools, public transportation, restrooms and restaurants were legally separated by race. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of seeing an America free of this segregation, free of discrimination, a world where his “four little children…will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” And Dr. King helped make that dream a reality.
Ideology from the Bible, Henry David Thoreau, Walter Rauschenbusch and Mahatma Gandhi influenced Dr. King’s philosophy and practice of non-violence and social justice. After Rosa Parks ignited the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama in 1955 by refusing to give up her seat to a Caucasian rider, Dr. King peacefully led the boycott to a successful completion. It took 381 days, but Alabama desegregated its bus system because the Supreme Court stated the laws were “in violation of the of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” In 1963, Dr. King delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech in Washington, DC to a record crowd of over 250,000 people attending the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, the same year the Civil Rights Act passed, outlawing discrimination in public places and employment opportunities as well as integrating schools and other public services.
Dr. King was assassinated in 1968, but his legacy lives on. After his death, family, friends and followers continue Dr. King’s work for peaceful progress and social justice. The third Monday in January recognizes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through a Federal Holiday. On this day, Americans are encouraged to follow Dr. King’s lead and give back to their community in service.
While there is still much work to do in our country, I believe Dr. King would glow with delight if he was here today watching the inauguration festivities of the first African-American President of the United States, President Barack Obama. Recently, a new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll showed that nearly seven in 10 African-Americans believe that with the election of Obama, Martin Luther King’s dream of racial equality has been fulfilled.