Martin Luther King Jr.

Syringa Garcia

The third Monday of January is a day everyone knows hopefully at least somewhat well. On that day, we celebrate the life and battle for civil rights of Martin Luther King Jr. His legacy is unmatchable. But what exactly did he do to become such a well known and astounding face in history? In 1865, after four years of fighting, the Civil War came to an end and freed the slaves. However, it is sad to say that even almost a hundred years later, hatred and violence towards African Americans persisted. Of course, people had been trying to change things for the better for years following, but things weren’t looking too hopeful until Martin Luther King Jr. entered the scene.

Born January 15, 1929 on a Tuesday, Martin Luther King Jr. was the son of a Baptist pastor and a former teacher. King was the second child out of four. His whole childhood he attended segregated public schools in Atlanta, Georgia. He was a very academically talented young man and ended up getting a doctorate in systematic theology. He became a Baptist minister in 1954 while still working on his PhD.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a leader of the civil rights movement in the U.S.A. (1955-1968). Although he is well known for his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, he traveled the world giving lectures and leading non-violent protests.  He was one of the people that helped organize the first big protest in favour of African American civil rights in the South. The protest was the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott, which occurred after the arrest of Rosa Parks when people started to protest that segregation on public busses was unconstitutional. Rosa Parks was a seamstress and another big face in American history. She was sick of being treated like dirt, so when she was instructed to move so she could give her seat up to a white passenger on the public bus she sat on, she refused. The strike lasted 381 days and was a good start to transit equality and eliminating segregation.

Another event King led was the March on Washington. It was in August of 1963 and had an estimated attendance of 250,000 people. Of course, he also gave his famous speech, stating, “Five score years ago, a great American…  signed the Emancipation Proclamation…. But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free… We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence… we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream… And when this happens… we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at  ast! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”’

All Martin Luther King Jr.’s protests and speeches were non-violent and truly inspiring, so it’s no surprise that in 1964 Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, getting the recognition he deserved.

Some people hated King for the way he thought and how he was changing the South. All the peaceful protests and speeches were met with extreme violence, and on April 4, 1968 he was shot from the balcony of the motel he was staying in in Tennessee. Although King was rushed to the hospital, he sadly died within the next hour.  The nation was outraged. People rioted and burned things down in their anger. London B. Johnson, the president at the time responded saying, “I ask every citizen to reject the blind violence that has struck Dr. King, who lived by nonviolence… We can achieve nothing by lawlessness and divisiveness among the American people. It is only by…  working together that we can continue to move toward equality and fulfillment for all of our people.” While trying to calm the country, he mourned himself, cancelling all business he had planned for that day and postponing his vacation.

King’s quest to abolish inequality in such a loving and peaceful way should be an inspiration to everyone. He was the kind of man that changed people’s lives, and continues to change people’s lives through the memory of him. If anyone deserves a day dedicated to them and how they changed the world, it’s Martin Luther King Jr. He was a strong, brave man with a dream big enough to change the world.