Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.
By Kerri Applegate
Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. King came from a long line of pastors, and faith would play a seismic role in his pursuit of equality. His father, Martin Luther King, Sr., demonstrated strong principles for his children by rejecting racism and segregation, and considered it an act against God’s will. King’s father adamantly taught his children that class superiority was wrong and had no place in the United States. His father’s teaching undoubtedly created a spark and influenced a future leader of the Civil Rights Movement.
Martin Luther King was a precocious young man that skipped several grades in high school and entered Morehouse College at the age of 15, earning a B.A. in Sociology and eventually a doctorate in Systematic Theology from Boston University in 1955. It was in Boston that King met his wife Coretta, an aspiring singer, with whom he would later marry and have four children. By 1954, King had been appointed Head Pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. During his administration, segregation of public facilities such as schools, public transportation, restaurants, and even separate water fountains was strictly enforced, preventing blacks from having access to the same spaces as white people.
While riding a Montgomery City Bus on December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man and defied the Jim Crow Laws (1876-1965) that enforced segregation amongst black and white citizens in the Southern States. By December 5th, King was elected President of the Montgomery Improvement Association that led the Montgomery Bus Boycott. During the boycotts, African Americans did everything but ride the bus to get to work, school, or church. King’s involvement didn’t go unnoticed. He and his family lives through a house bombing, violent attacks and King being apprehended for conspiracy. On December 21, 1965, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation on public transportation was illegal, in part due to the efforts of Dr. King.
King’s leadership in the boycotts was only the beginning of his work to defend equality and civil rights for all people. King later went on to lead nonviolent protests, become arrested numerous times, stage “sit-ins”, gain support from President Kennedy, become the youngest person to achieve the Nobel Peace Prize (1964), and go on to give one of the most famous speeches the United States had heard to date.
Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in front of 250,000 protesters gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963. This historic moment was considered a major turning point for the cause of desegregation and social justice for African-Americans.
King lived long enough to create a major impact and set a more just path for future generations. It was said that King believed in visible, peaceful protest and that no change would come from not visibly seeing or hearing others stand up for change and justice. Martin Luther King was assassinated while standing on the balcony of his hotel in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. The day before he died he gave a speech where he said, “God’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you.”
Today we remember King’s legacy and pause to reflect on the contributions that he made to equality and civil rights. Across Puerto Rico, the government offices, schools, and banks are closed in remembrance. We invite you to leave your comments on what King’s legacy means to you.
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