Today, January 15 is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday. Had he lived, he would have been a senior citizen of 81 years old. He died at 39 years old. His name and life has come to represent justice. He was the father of the modern day civil rights movement. He was a young minister on a mission when he was summons by a bus boycott in Birmingham Alabama. A seamstress by the name of Rosa Parks had been arrested because she would not give up her seat on the front of the bus. On December 1, 1955 a movement begin. Dr. King was introduced to the world. Segregation was on notice. King brought social change to America.
In retrospect, King ended America's apartheid. His first victory was 385 days long and resulted in the end of segregation. King's house was bombed and it was the beginning of his 13 arrests.
He formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957 with The Reverend Ralph Abernathy and others. They launched non violent protests throughout the south. Among the methods used to challenge the segregated system was sit-ins, boycotts and freedom rides. King's base was The Black Church. King was a dynamic speaker, one of the greatest orators America has produced. To hear his deep baritone voice was to hear conviction and pure power of moral authority and audacity. His platform was the pulpuit of the Black church. His movement was with college students who were jailed for protesting. He spoke with moral authority and challenged America to live up to its Constitution. Indeed he spoke truth to power. In doing so he was often threatened, his house bombed, and eventually he was killed for his beliefs.
The King voice was regal. He was authentic and an elegant speaker. His non violence methods were patterned after Gandhi. His most famous speech, "I Have a Dream" was delivered in 1963 in Washington D.C. on the March on Washington. The speech was an outright challenge to The American Government on jobs and freedom. He was a prolific writer. One of his most powerful essay is "The Letter From the Birmingham Jail" which was written on scraps of paper and was an appeal to the clergy to join him in his position for his righteous cause and explaining why he was in jail.
King earned the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his non violence apprach. He is the youngest person ever to have received the award. By this time he was recognized globally for his efforts.
King in Chicago
In 1966, King brought the Civil Rights movement to the North. Chicago was the city of choice.
He moved on Chicago's west side and was invited by the late Al Raby, who headed the coalition, Coordinating Council of Community Organizations (CCCO) to protest the Willis Wagons (trailer classrooms) sponsored by Chicgo Public Schools. King came to Chicago with protest and met oposition from Daley and the black six alderman and some local ministers. He eventually won open housing in the city and ceased the Willis Wagons.
King said that the demonstrations in Marquette Park on Chicago's south side was the worse of his career. He was hit in the head with a rock on this march, and the Rev. Andy Young's car was burned. The demonstrations in Gage Park and Marquette Park turned into riots and the late Mayor Daley was embarassed. The city that worked was not working and the racism of the north was shown on national TV. It was during this time, that King met a young seminary student in Chicago. He was the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson. King assigned Jackson to start, a department within SCLC, Operation Breadbasket.
In 1965 King opposed the Vietnam War on moral grounds. In a speech at New York's Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 he opposed the war on moral grounds. He was publically scolded by his peers. In essence, he was told he shouldn't address international affairs.
He didn't back down and eventually others joined his leadership to establish the Peace Movement, including Senator Bobby Kennedy.
At the time of his death, 1968, King was working to organiae the Poor People's Campaign which was a live in efforts in Washington comprised of America's rainbow poor to address economic justice.
He was assassinated in Memphis Tennessee on April 4, 1968 while addressing a strike of garbage men. He died at the age of 39 year old. He was survived by his parents, a brother, his wife and three children.
King was one of the most important men in this century. He spoke to America's wrongs. His voice rung from the pulpuit and he wanted to be known as a "Baptist preacher." His leadership knows no peer. He never had a proper budget. He never held elected political office. He changed America with his voice, his message, ,his nonviolent way.
His life is demonstration of one man making a difference.
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