Tag Archives: Martin Luther King Jr.

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Becoming King colorMartin Luther King dreamt of a nation where all inhabitants of the United States would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by their personal abilities and qualities. King became the face of the civil rights revolution through adhering to Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence and leading a movement based on peace, not conflict. On August 28, 1963, 250,000 demonstrators stood before the Lincoln Memorial while King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, one year before the United States passed a law prohibiting all racial discrimination.

Screen Shot 2018-10-12 at 11.13.14 AMFor his tireless dedication and commitment towards civil rights and social justice, Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on this day in 1964. At 35, he became the youngest person to have ever received this esteemed award.

In honor of Dr. King, his legacy, and the 54th anniversary of his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, here is an excerpt of his acceptance speech, which he made in Oslo, Norway on December 10, 1964.


 

“Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness, Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment when 22 million Negroes of the United States of America are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice. I accept this award on behalf of a civil rights movement which is moving with determination and a majestic scorn for risk and danger to establish a reign of freedom and a rule of justice. I am mindful that only yesterday in Birmingham, Alabama, our children, crying out for brotherhood, were answered with fire hoses, snarling dogs and even death. I am mindful that only yesterday in Philadelphia, Mississippi, young people seeking to secure the right to vote were brutalized and murdered. And only yesterday more than 40 houses of worship in the State of Mississippi alone were bombed or burned because they offered a sanctuary to those who would not accept segregation. I am mindful that debilitating and grinding poverty afflicts my people and chains them to the lowest rung of the economic ladder.

Therefore, I must ask why this prize is awarded to a movement which is beleaguered and committed to unrelenting struggle; to a movement which has not won the very peace and brotherhood which is the essence of the Nobel Prize.

Screen Shot 2018-10-12 at 12.29.27 PMAfter contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time – the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

Screen Shot 2018-10-12 at 12.30.27 PM.pngThis faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born.

Today I come to Oslo as a trustee, inspired and with renewed dedication to humanity. I accept this prize on behalf of all men who love peace and brotherhood. I say I come as a trustee, for in the depths of my heart I am aware that this prize is much more than an honor to me personally.

I think Alfred Nobel would know what I mean when I say that I accept this award in the spirit of a curator of some precious heirloom which he holds in trust for its true owners – all those to whom beauty is truth and truth beauty – and in whose eyes the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.”

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Remembering a Hero for Peace, Equality, and Justice

 “But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” –Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 These were the famous ending words of Dr. Martin Luther King’s last speech at Mason Temple Church in Memphis, Tennessee on April 3, 1968. King was assassinated the following day.

This week will always mark the remembrance of a man who spoke in the pursuit of peace, equality, and love for an entire nation. President Lyndon B. Johnson referred to King as the “apostle of nonviolence.” A light had dimmed in a nation built upon hope and freedom. The devastating loss led to a change in history and the birth of one of America’s greatest legacy. With tragedy came social change.

People were enraged and shocked to hear of King’s sudden death. Rioting began to ripple through towns. Johnson knew the civil rights legislation needed to be passed soon. On April 11, the Civil Rights Act of 1968, or the Fair Housing Act, was passed and signed by Johnson. King will always be widely known as the face of the civil rights movement. His powerful voice drew in an unprecedented amount of people both black and white.

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Justice was also fought in the case of James Earl Ray, the suspect found guilty in King’s murder. His testimony was never heard. Ray’s fingerprints were found on the rifle as well as a scope and a pair of binoculars. He pleaded guilty to King’s murder on March 10, 1969, only to retract his confession claiming he was victim of conspiracy. Among Ray’s supporters were King’s closest loved ones. King’s son Dexter publicly met with Ray in 1977. His encounter impacted him enough to petition for Ray’s case to be reopened. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, also supported Ray’s innocence touching on how America will never know the true details behind the case.

One detail will always be widely known. Dr. Martin Luther King left an imprint in Untied States History that could never be erased. Activists still seeking equality and social change reflect and call upon the actions and values King represented through his courageous speeches. The Chicago Freedom Movement, edited by Mary Lou Finley, Bernard Lafayette Jr., James R. Ralph, and Pam Smith, speaks in depth of the trail of civil rights activism King colored throughout the North. In Peace and Freedom, speaks of Lafayette’s experience with King in what has come to be known in history as a battleground for racial equality: Selma. Lafayette was an associate of King’s in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and one of the main organizers of the actions taken in Selma.

“I felt Dr. King’s determination gave courage to the people who were trying to take a stand. When he talked about his dream, he spoke of something positive, rather than condemning the situation. His speech was a voice for change. He saw change coming. When he said, “Let freedom ring,” Dr. King gave the nation a unified voice.” –Bernard Lafayette Jr., In Peace and Freedom

Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2016

A few days after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have turned 87 years old, we remember his spirit, contributions, and the tremendous impact he made on both American lives and our culture.

Last year for MLK Day, Bernard Lafayette, a cofounder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and protege of Dr. King in the the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, spoke with CBS Evening News about the continuing influence of his mentor and the continued struggle for change through nonviolence.

LaFayette, author of In Peace and Freedom: My Journey in Selma, took the directorship of the Alabama Voter Registration Project in Selma at just the age of 22. He first met Dr. King as a student in Nashville, and again in Raleigh after founding SNCC. The following description of his second meeting with Dr. King comes from his memoir, In Peace and Freedom:

"In Peace and Freedom: My Journey in Selma" by Bernard LaFayette Jr. and Kathryn Lee Johnson foreword by Congressman John Robert Lewis afterword by Raymond ArsenaultWhen I talked with Dr. King, I was always inspired by his words. I felt uplifted, buoyed by his presence. When the Nashville students and I arrived in Raleigh to join ranks with his organization, SCLC, I was bursting with youthful enthusiasm. We were also joined by some of our northern support groups with a mixture of white and black individuals, all committed to a common cause. There was electricity in the air, the desire to join with others who had been jailed or beaten. Such meetings reinforced the notion that we were not alone; this collection of college students was bonded by our experiences, dedication, and determination.”

In Peace and Freedom is now available in paperback, and Lafayette is coeditor of the forthcoming The Chicago Freedom Movement: Martin Luther King Jr. and Civil Rights Activism in the North.

This Day in History…

Forty-nine years ago today, activists’ third and final attempt to march from Selma to Montgomery succeeded. It all started after the Civil Rights movement of 1864 was passed by President Johnson. African Americans were granted new rights, however the Jim Crow laws still remained intact, continuing to prevent a large portion of the black population from voting.

Despite this, John Lewis led fifty African Americans to the courthouse in Selma, Alabama, on registration day in the name of the equality and freedom. As a result, they were arrested and local judge James Hare implemented an injunction forbidding gatherings of three or more people organizing under the banner of civil rights. Even if three or more people were just talking about civil rights, this was considered a violation.

Martin Luther King Jr. was then contacted and brought in to form the Selma Voting Rights Movement in January 1965, which began protests in support of voting rights in various cities outside of Selma. As the organization grew, they began to attempt marches to appeal to higher authority in Montgomery, Alabama. After two previous attempts, the participants arrived at the state capitol forty-nine years ago today—a major win in the battle for civil rights.

Be sure to check out In Peace and Freedom: My Journey in Selma by Bernard LaFayette Jr. and Kathryn Lee Johnson. Lafayette was one of the primary organizers of the Selma Voting Rights movement and participated in these historic marches. This electrifying memoir depicts the inspiring story of his time in Selma and presents an intriguing perspective on the civil rights movement from one of its greatest leaders.