Martin Luther King Jr. can be remembered as the most relentless yet peaceful man who has ever laid foot on American ground.
He woke not a single day in which he did not breathe in the pain and oppression of his fellow African Americans. Since the dawn of the American nation, a torture of sorts had been fueled by the barbaric and racist ways of those who ruled the country and claimed it to be a democratic nation, where the people were “given a voice.”
Although the government saw progress in rights given towards African-Americans with the abolition of slavery, they had not come to realize that segregation is no better than slavery, and that, through nearly two-hundred years of the U.S. existing, the dehumanization of blacks had been brutally continued. King saw it in the 1950’s, as he had begun his civil rights movement with the boycott of the Montgomery Bus System. The act could be so easily remembered by Rosa Park’s famous line, “no,” as she refused to give up her bus seat to a white man. Martin Luther King Jr. did not see violence as an answer, instead he found that the black community was very capable of rising above a concept of such stupidity.
The Civil Rights Movement was composed of peaceful protests and hundreds of speeches; these of course included King’s legendary I Have a Dream speech and I’ve Been To the Mountaintop. Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested twenty times, for unjust reasons. But with his unstoppable passion for the cause of his people, the arrests were more of a motivations than a setback for King and the civil rights movement.
King wrote five books, spoke at over 2,500 public events, and became TIME Magazine’s man of the year in 1963. Then, in 1965, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, for rising his voice in innumerable moments to fight against racism and discrimination towards blacks. His voice was heard across the nation, even by the president, who recognized and honored his contributions towards the civil rights movement by declaring the third monday of every January ‘Martin Luther King Jr. Day.’
His I’ve Been To the Mountaintop speech, given on the third of April, 1968, was the last message he would ever deliver. Within fleeting moments, after returning his Memphis motel room, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, at the young age of 39. King risked his life for his country, his people, and the fight for equality, knowing very well that plenty of cruelty remained in the world as he fought peacefully. The assassination was certainly not his fate, but he was not afraid of death, either. “A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live,” King thought.
On Martin Luther King Jr. day, we remember that the fight for equality is not yet over, and that we can always find the heart to continue this fight for peace through reviving the absolute passion which thrived in the hearts of civil rights activists that fought before our time. Not only King, but rebels before his time as well, such as abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who had freed African-Americans from their misery through an Underground Railroad, fought just as ardently for the rights of the minority. Today, the racial conflict we face is far less intense than it used to be, yet it is no less important than it was at King’s time. In this time, our voices are more heard than they have been in the past. Martin Luther King Jr. passes on the duty to peacefully reach equality, and he has given us the everlasting power we hear in our voices when we fight for what we stand for. On an ending note, live by the timeless, ever-so wise words of King, as he tells: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”
By Tasina Westberg