On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. presents a tribute to the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
During the less than thirteen years of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership of the modern Civil Rights Movement, from December 1955 until April 4, 1968, African Americans achieved more genuine progress toward racial equality than the previous 350 years had produced. King is widely regarded as the preeminent advocate of nonviolence and one of the greatest nonviolent leaders in world history.
Drawing inspiration from both his Christian faith and the peaceful teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, King led a nonviolent movement in the late 1950s and ‘60s to achieve legal equality for African Americans in this country. While others were advocating for freedom by “any means necessary,” including violence, he used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance, such as protests and grassroots organizing, to achieve seemingly impossible goals. King went on to lead similar campaigns against poverty and international conflict, always maintaining fidelity to his principles that men and women everywhere, regardless of color or creed, are equal members of the human family.
King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Nobel Peace Prize lecture and “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” are among the most revered orations and writings in the English language. His accomplishments are now taught to American children of all races, and scholars and students worldwide study his teachings. He is the only non-president to have a national holiday dedicated in his honor and the only non-president memorialized on the Great Mall in Washington, DC. He is memorialized in statues, parks, streets, squares, churches, and other public facilities around the world as a leader whose teachings are increasingly relevant to the welfare of humankind.
At the age of thirty-five, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement. On the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking sanitation workers of that city, he was assassinated.