Martin Luther King, Jr., born January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia, was an American Baptist minister, activist, humanitarian, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He was assassinated April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. Plans were underway to designate a national holiday to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. just four days after his assassination. But the holiday didn’t become a reality until more than a decade later. While the nation recognizes King as an “icon for democracy” today, in the 1960s and 70s he was still a controversial figure. Read timeline of the King years.
“Drawing inspiration from both his Christian faith and the peaceful teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King led a nonviolent movement in the late 1950’s and ‘60s to achieve legal equality for African-Americans in the United States. While others were advocating for freedom by ‘any means necessary,’ including violence, Martin Luther King, Jr. used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance, such as protests, grassroots organizing, and civil disobedience to achieve seemingly-impossible goals. He went on to lead similar campaigns against poverty and international conflict, always maintaining fidelity to his principles that men and women everywhere, regardless of color or creed, are equal members of the human family.” – The King Center
During the 1950s and 1960s, newspaper and TV coverage of Dr King’s activities was prolific: the bus boycotts in Alabama, the peaceful marches and organized sit ins, the lunch counter protests. Significant social change does not come easy. Controversy abounds. Hatred and fear show their public faces, no longer hidden in the everyday lives of anonymous citizens. Then on December 1, 1955 the nation’s attention was captured by the arrest of African-American Rosa Parks for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white person.
The next day, Dr King proposed a citywide boycott of public transportation in Montgomery, Alabama. The boycott, lasting just over a year, proved to be highly effective since the majority of city bus patrons were blacks. In June 1956, a federal court found that the laws in Alabama and Montgomery requiring segregated buses were unconstitutional. However, an appeal kept segregation intact until Dec. 20, 1956, when the US Supreme Court upheld the district court’s ruling. The boycott’s official end signaled one of the civil rights movement’s first victories and made King one of its central figures.
Following are quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.
- Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
- I’m concerned about a better world. I’m concerned about justice; I’m concerned about brotherhood; I’m concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.
- 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.
- Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
- Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
- Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?
- I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
- In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
- We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.
- Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.