March to Change; Remembering Martin Luther King Jr.
January 18, 2016
1963, a year of racial injustice and the beginning of social change, a black man stood on the steps on the Lincoln Memorial, to give the words that would be remembered 53 years later and many more to come. History was made. Change was called upon, and men and women, black and white assembled in hopes for a better tomorrow, all beginning with one man’s dream.
Michael King was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta Georgia. Raised by a reverend, Michael Sr., and Pastor Albert King, Michael was a middle child between an older sister and a younger brother. After birth, His father not only changed his own name to Martin Luther but also changed Michael’s as well to honor a well-known protestant reformer.
Racial injustice was far from invisible during his upbringing. Martin was denied the ability to play with his childhood friend over the color of his skin. Social humility shaped the way King looked at the world through his life. He often resented whites from the racial humility he felt and went as far as to jump from a two-story house after blaming himself for his grandmother’s death.
Martin was quite present in his school’s clubs and events, winning prizes for public speaking and debate; he graduated Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta. He later attended Morehouse College and finished with a degree in sociology followed by a B.Div degree from Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. After receiving a PhD in systematic theology at Boston University, King explored his own religion through gospels an readings. By doing so, he introduced his ideals of nonviolence and peaceful protest.
Needing an organization to form structured protests and boycotts, King and a few other rights activists established the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to harness moral authority and better sway black churches to plan peaceful protests for the cause. With such advances like the Albany Movement, the Birmingham Campaign, and the gathering in Selma, Alabama, King and his followers combated voting restrictions and racial segregation through America.
In front of 250,000 people from across the country, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his infamous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington to address the injustice and cruelty against African Americans in the South. In support for an end to racial segregation in schools and unemployment programs, thousands stood silent in the presence of their dignitary. Preaching freedom through the mountains of New York and hilltops of New Hampshire, King embodied a spirit of change to come. Ending with the memorable line “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty we are free at last!” a roaring crowd gave their encouragement and endorsement to a doctor who they knew could change the world. After five more years of sweat and strife to win racial equality, King was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee fighting for higher wages and better conditions for black employees. Working to continue his legacy, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 to end discrimination in housing and housing affairs based on race, religion or national origin.
Though Dr. King made great strides in progressing the lives of African Americans, we are not finished. Police brutality is still very present in 2016, the symbol of the KKK and the Confederacy are still prevalent in southern culture, integration in universities and in the workplace are still meager. Organizations like the NAACP and the Black Lives Matter Movement are just barely shedding the light on America’s race problem today. We’ve come a long way together as a nation, let us continue Dr. King’s march to change together as a nation, and as Martin once said “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.”