|For The Honorable Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The time is always right to do what is right.“ — Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Too often, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is seen as just a day off — and little else, aside from grade school lessons painting a
vague picture of King's life and activism. It is an uncomfortable reality of how we have been taught to value (or, rather, not
value) one of the most influential Black leaders in history.
In 1954, Martin Luther King, Jr. became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Always
a strong worker for civil rights for members of his race, in 1955, he accepted the
leadership of the first great Negro nonviolent demonstration of contemporary times in
the United States, the bus boycott. The boycott lasted 382 days. Finally, on December
21, 1956, the Supreme Court of the United States declared unconstitutional the laws
requiring segregation on buses, Blacks and Whites rode the buses as equals. During
the days of the boycott, King was arrested, his home was bombed, he was subjected
to personal abuse, but at the same time he emerged as a leader of the first rank.
"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.” — Rev.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
1963, King's famous "I Have a Dream Speech" was delivered to over 200,000 people,
more than any other rally in Washington D.C.'s history at that point. His speech was
bold, triumphant and as he spoke millions listened. People took heed to his message,
laced with truths from the Bible and the U.S. Constitution. It not only marked him as a
master orator and a brilliant wordsmith, but also put pressure on the government to
push for civil rights laws to pass through Congress.
In 1964, Dr. King won the Nobel Peace Prize. He was only the third Black person to
receive this award and at 35-years-old, he was the youngest recipient at the time.
Dr. King was largely responsible for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the
Voting Rights Act of 1965. He also played a major part in the passage of the Fair
Housing Act of 1968.
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and
convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." — Rev.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
It is because of Martin Luther King and the efforts of his supporters that America came
to understand the power of nonviolent protest. When his nonviolent efforts were met
with violence, it actually garnered empathy and support for his cause. The path, the
heart, and the minds of Americans were changed forever. The public was swayed to
such a magnitude that major acts of Congressional power were set in motion.
I remember watching the I Have A Dream speech with my parents. Even at that age, I
thought that this was a monumental moment in time for Black people in America.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. changed the path of all African Americans in his
time and for subsequent decades and his day deserves to be meaningfully recognized.