Today, we honor and celebrate one of the most influential people of the 20th century, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In just 39 short years, MLK left a lasting impression on the world. Whether it was his commanding, yet loving demeanor or his ability to call a crowd to action, there is no doubt that MLK left his mark on history. MLK was a skilled orator and preached what he believed, but he did so in such a way that his audience did not feel brow-beaten by his beliefs. MLK promoted universal concepts of love and light that both the Christian and the Hindu could subscribe to, which is no surprise, as he drew his motivational techniques directly from Gandhi. MLK grew up in a time of extreme divisiveness. Segregation in schools and most public places was occurring. Racism was at an all-time high in America, and MLK knew that he had to step in and do his part to change the course in which America was headed.
MLK was part of a long lineage of pastors. “His grandfather began the family’s long tenure as pastors of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, serving from 1914 to 1931; his father has served from then until the present, and from 1960 until his death Martin Luther acted as co-pastor.” (1) MLK attended various universities and seminaries, and he eventually obtained his doctorate from Boston University in 1953. Boston is where he found the love of his life Coretta Scott, and eventually the two married and had four children.
The list of MLK’s achievements is vast. “In 1954, Martin Luther King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Always a strong worker for civil rights for members of his race, King was, by this time, a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the leading organization of its kind in the nation. He was ready, then, early in December 1955, to accept the leadership of the first great Negro nonviolent demonstration of contemporary times in the United States, the bus boycott described by Gunnar Jahn in his presentation speech in honor of the laureate. The boycott lasted 382 days. On December 21, 1956, after the Supreme Court of the United States had declared unconstitutional the laws requiring segregation on buses, Negroes and whites rode the buses as equals. During these days of boycott, King was arrested, his home was bombed, he was subjected to personal abuse.” (1) None of this stopped MLK. It was through these trials and tribulations that MLK emerged has a leader for both the African American community and the world itself.
Post boycott in 1957, MLK “was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization formed to provide new leadership for the now burgeoning civil rights movement. In the eleven-year period between 1957 and 1968, King traveled over six million miles and spoke over twenty-five hundred times, appearing wherever there was injustice, protest, and action; and meanwhile he wrote five books as well as numerous articles. In these years, he led a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama, that caught the attention of the entire world, providing what he called a coalition of conscience. and inspiring his ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’, a manifesto of the Negro revolution; he planned the drives in Alabama for the registration of Negroes as voters; he directed the peaceful march on Washington, D.C., of 250,000 people to whom he delivered his address, ‘l Have a Dream’, he conferred with President John F. Kennedy and campaigned for President Lyndon B. Johnson; he was arrested upwards of twenty times and assaulted at least four times; he was awarded five honorary degrees; was named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1963.” (1)
MLK would go on to be the youngest man in history to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, in which he turned over the Nobel Peace Prize money to the civil rights movement he was invested in. In 1968, on the evening of April 4th, MLK was assassinated on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee. He was set to lead a march in support and sympathy of the striking garbage workers of that city; a march that he would never get to see through. It is an unfortunate issue of our society and time that when one doesn’t agree with another, that it’s common for violence to ensue. MLK was a proponent of peace; a purveyor of prosperity. His message was simple: to love one another, and from love everything else flows. Why should a noble, bridge-building man lose his life for a message so pure? It’s simple: hate has run rampant in this world. Hate is acceptable and even encouraged. Hate causes divisiveness which feeds the elite. MLK lost his life because his mission wasn’t aiding someone else’s agenda. MLK may no longer be with us, but his message lives on infamy. His spirit is alive and well, whenever you take some time to visit key places in Atlanta that were a part of his life. Thank you, Dr. King, for changing the world through love and light.