Martin Luther King Jr: Uniter of AmericaBy David Finley | January 24th, 2013 | Category: Lead Story | No Comments »
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” Martin Luther King Jr.
With the recent observation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I am reminded of the forward progression our nation has made in regards of racial relations and tolerance. In the not too distant past, races were segregated and minorities were treated as second class citizens here in America, the “land of the free”. Bathrooms, water fountains, restaurants, and even the towns were divided along racial lines, with very restricted interrelation between the two. During this time of societal segregation King was born.
Born on January 15, 1929, he grew up in Atlanta Georgia, listening to the words preached by his father a reverend at the local church. Without formally graduating from high school King enrolled in Morehouse College at the age of 15, where he graduated in 1948 with a B.A. in Sociology. From there he enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary seeking a degree in Theology. He graduated in 1951 with a Bachelor of Divinity degree. Two years later he married Corretta Scott on the lawn of his parent’s house. Soon after his marriage he became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church from which he developed his oratorical style.
In 1959, King went to India where he met Mahatma Gandhi, the well-known leader of passive resistance and nonviolence. This meeting had a profound effect on King and his commitment to America’s struggle for civil rights and equality.
Then on December 1, 1955, a tired Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat near the front of the bus to a white man and move to the rear. When she was arrested, the Montgomery Bus Boycott ensued. Led by King and other prominent black citizens, the black citizens of the city refused to ride the public transportation and instead organized carpooling, hitchhiking, or walking to get to where they needed to go. This boycott lasted 385 days and ended with a U.S. District Court ruling ending racial segregation on all Montgomery public buses.
Among other great accomplishments King made during this era, he organized and led marches for the black right to vote, for desegregation, and for labor and other basic civil rights. One of the most famous was the 1963 march on Washington D.C. in which over a quarter of a million of diverse ethnicities attended. Most of these rights were soon enacted into U.S. law with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Tragically, in Memphis Tennessee on April 4, 1968, King was assassinated outside the door to his motel room. Two months after his death, escaped convict James Earl Ray was captured and charged with King’s murder. He confessed on March 10, 1969, though he recanted it three days later charging police brutality and cover-ups. Although conspiracies can cloud some truths, the fact remains that Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most important figures in modern American history. The loss of his life was not just a loss for minorities, but a loss for America as a whole.
As he stated in his famous I Have a Dream Speech, King stated his hopes for the future “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.” It seems that King’s dreams are becoming our reality.