More than nine decades have passed since the birth of one of the most celebrated leaders of the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, GA. He was the cherished son of Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. and Alberta Williams King, and brother to Christine and Alfred Daniel. Influenced by his father, his Christian beliefs, and the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, he became the most visible spokesperson and leader for civil rights movement as he worked with other well-known and anonymous heroes to protest injustice and to stand against racial discrimination and segregation. As grandson and son of Baptist preachers, and well-educated minister in his own right, he mastered the ability to inspire and lead others through his powerful sermons and speeches. He advocated for peaceful marches and protests throughout the South which were often met with violence. Dr. King and his followers persisted, and the resistance forged on to catch the attention of the world.
The historical March on Washington in 1963 was organized to express dissatisfaction in jobs, wages, employment policies, justice and equal opportunity. More than 250,000 people of all ages and ethnicities assembled at the Lincoln Memorial and heard the legendary, “I Have a Dream” speech which called for civic and economic rights and an end to racism in the U.S. The landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 soon followed, which ended segregation of public places and employment discrimination. Other laws followed, though the struggle against racism would continue.
In addition to being awarded the highly coveted Nobel Peace Prize at young age 35, Dr. King’s life and accomplishments have been honored and chronicled in movies, documentaries, and books. He wrote 5 books, numerous articles and delivered up to 450 speeches a year. Dr. King’s activism resulted in multiple incarcerations, personal abuse and assault, bombing of his home, and covert surveillance from the FBI. He was ultimately assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had come to lead a march by striking sanitation workers. Dr. King was survived by his wife Coretta, and young children, Yolanda, Martin III, Dexter and Bernice. His family and followers would strive to continue his work and perpetuate his dream through the years. As a lasting tribute to his legacy, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was opened to the public in 2011 in Washington, DC . It is the first national monument to honor a man of color.
America honors the birth, life and legacy of Dr. King each year on the third Monday in January. It is the only national holiday that people are encouraged to use as a day of service to improve our communities. On January 18, 2021, let us remember his work to fight injustice. Let us also remember that his true work did not end on that tragic day in 1968. Many have followed in his footsteps, more pathways have been made, and much work needs to be done. We must continue our commitment to the cause of justice and equality, now more than ever.