Dr. King’s legacy: leadership and courage

12 years ago Comments Off on Dr. King’s legacy: leadership and courage

By Javier Rodriguez

Senior Reporter

For a man who expressed his dream in front of over 200,000 civil rights supporters during the immense March on Washington protest in 1963, the effects are still felt to this day as we celebrate what this man has done for our country with respect to social equality.

As students take the day off from school, the third Monday in January is in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr., many are reminded of the progress this country has made during the last 40 years.

What started out as demonstrations with the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) founded in 1957 to help challenge racial segregation, civil rights protests helped stitch together the social fabric of our modern society.

During his protests and demonstrations, the Atlanta born King used nonnonviolent tactics that were influenced by Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi. He discovered Gandhi’s teachings during his collegiate years at Morehouse Morehouse, which he started at the age of 15. He continued his education at Boston University where he received his doctoral degree in systematic theology at the age of 25 and used nonviolent means of demonstrations as his main instrument of social protest.

Although the one time Nobel Prize winner used nonviolent tactics, his demonstrations would often be met by violence from local authorities which landed King in jail. While in jail, King wrote his famous “Letter from Birmingham jail” to a local clergyman, arguing that individuals had the moral right to disobey unjust laws.

The violent scenes from the protests in Birmingham were shown in newspapers and broadcasted on television sets around the globe. The national reaction to the violence in Alabama helped the civil rights movement gain support.

On Aug. 28, 1963, months after the events in Alabama took place, he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech where King expressed he had a dream where his “Four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Along with the March on Washington and previous protests, mainly in the south, that “created political momentum” and resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 the following year, which ended segregation.

His fight for equality also brought about the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson resulting from the Selma marches to Montgomery and “Bloody Sunday.”

In the spring of 1968, King was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn.

King represented courage, achievement, high moral leadership and has been memorialized forever in American history at the Center for Nonviolent Social Change, a research institution where his tomb is located in his hometown of Atlanta.