“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”â€• Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World
April 4th 2012 marked the 44th year of clergyman, activist, and prominent Civil Rights Movement leader Dr. Martin Luther King’s death.
The name Martin Luther King Jr. has so pervaded the world that many people today has, at the very least an idea of who King is. Why is that? In short, his vision has changed the world. For everyone, the story is basically the same. As we progress into high school and beyond, we are taught about the life and work of King, including his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, and we gain a greater understanding of his impact on civil rights in America.
Imagine for a moment, fighting for something that virtually an entire society considered inviolable. Imagine championing a cause which seemed more hopeless with each passing day. Imagine your words falling lifelessly on deaf ears, being written off as mere manifestations of lunacy. For years, King did not have to imagine these things, this was his own reality.
Image Credit: classracegender.wordpress.com
King had a vision of a society in which people were treated equally regardless of race. A society in which race was not an issue in how people were allowed to live their lives. A society bonded by peace, equality and fraternity.
Martin Luther King and Civil Rights
King’s role in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s is well known. This gained him the respect of political leaders and gave him the potential power to enact major change.
King was involved in boycotts, marches, rallies and a wide range of other means of civil pressure. For example, in 1955, he became heavily involved in the Montgomery, Alabama boycott of the city buses, which was spurred by the bus company’s insistence that African Americans ride in the back seats only.
Like Gandhi, who led the non violent resistance movement against British colonial rule, an integral element of King’s vision, aside from a quest for racial equality, was the concept of non-violence. He staunchly refused to use violence as a means of protest. He taught his followers to do the same. This element of King’s beliefs was a major influence on the society at the time.
Regardless, constabulary and military personal used extreme violence and brutality against demonstrators and protesters. However, in the face of their quiet civil resistance, the overblown physical techniques of force and brutality lost their power.
The Civil Rights Act
As the prominent civil rights leader, King was greatly responsible for the passing of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act for African Americans, in the 1960s. This began the movement away from segregation and social prejudice.
Image Credit: http://www.biography.com
Sadly, King was assassinated in 1968. With his sudden death, the civil rights movement and indeed the country lost not only a prominent person, but great leader who effected positive change in society. The loss of King was a loss for people of all races.
King’s Vision and The World Today
When Dr. King spoke of a day when little black boys and girls could hold hands with and play with little white boys and girls, he was not speaking figuratively. In his time, that was unthinkable. Today, it is closer to being normal and acceptable, although we still have a long way to go. While King’s dreams have reached vast numbers around the world, it does not mean we can stop fighting racism and inequality. Martin Luther King's dream was not the destination; it was a part of a long, hard journey. We must all continue down the road that he began. Striving for the dream, keeping the importance of equality in our minds and hearts, was King's ultimate goal for the foreseeable future.
Martin Luther King Jr. goes down in history as one of the principal leader of the civil rights movement in the United States and a prominent advocate of nonviolent protest. King's challenges to segregation and racial discrimination helped convince many white Americans to support the cause of civil rights in the United States.
April 4th marked the 44th anniversary of King’s death. Even after 44 years, it is clear that the life of this man is worth much celebration. He was not one who ran away from the cause. He was one who went against the political and social norm of his time. Times got increasingly challenging and controversial for him, times got increasingly dangerous, still King remained steadfast. May his story enlighten even today’s leaders and give hope to the oppressed and downtrodden and in the end, may we all echo-hats off to King. May the dream come to its natural end and become a reality.
“No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they'd die for.”â€• Martin Luther King Jr.