Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Culture is never static – we are always developing, always changing, and one of the great challenges of our lifetimes is to insure that we move forward and not back, not just in our personal lives, but in the state of our governments, our countries.
Martin Luther King Jr., born Jan 15th, 1929, made it his goal to ensure that the United States was among those that moved forward by standing up to injustice as he saw it and by encouraging that same spirit in others. His oratorical talent roused not violence in his listeners, but a deep sense of empathy and justice. He used this energy to stage nonviolent protests large enough that they changed the face of the United States.
Even with so many people behind his cause, King met with many obstacles and setbacks. Although is protests were nonviolent, he was often at odds with the law. He was arrested 30 times and received numerous threats on his life.
According to biographer Taylor Branch, the Civil Rights Movement had a huge toll on King physically. King’s autopsy revealed that, although only 39 years old, he had the “heart of a 60 year-old (source).” King spent most of his life fighting for equality and it became his cause of death on April 4th, 1968, when he was assassinated by James Earl Ray.
Although King’s assassination took place in 1968, but it was not until 1983 that President Ronald Reagan declared his birthday a national holiday and it wasn’t until three years later that the holiday was upheld for the first time. It was even later than that, just seventeen years ago, that all states celebrated MLK Day—some states, until that point, had resisted celebrating the holiday as MLK Day.
On MLK Day, the International Museum of Cultures celebrates the efforts of a great man whose peaceful protests and moving speeches helped bring the United States one giant step closer to equality. He is remembered not just by his legal achievements—the Civil Rights Act, which included the Fair Housing Act—but by his kindness and his strength of character.
His famous “I Have a Dream” speech, one of the finest United States speeches in history, can be listened to through this (link). A full transcript is also available. For more information on Martin Luther King Jr., visit The King Center at http://www.thekingcenter.org/.