Monday, January 17, 2005

Remembering a Legend

As many people in the nation stay home from work and school today due to a national holiday, I hope that everyone takes at least a little time to reflect on the lifetime of work that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated himself to and what his work did for our country.

The civil rights leader, born in 1929 in a segregated section of Georgia, was known as a stellar student whose high intelligence propelled him through high school, which he completed at age 15. By nineteen, he had received his B.A.

A lover of education, King went on to complete a B.D. three years later. He then enrolled in Boston University, where - in 1955 - his hard work and dedication earned him a doctoral degree.

At the conclusion of his formal education, King became a pastor in Alabama, while sitting on the Executive Board of the NAACP. It was at this time that Dr. King became intently involved in seeking equality for the African American race. This was evidenced when King led a 382-day nonviolent boycott of the Montgomery, Alabama bus system, an action that was prompted by Detroit's own Rosa Parks - an Alabama-born seamstress who was arrested after refusing to vacate her bus seat to a white person. At the conclusion of the bus boycott, the Supreme Court declared the Alabama segregation laws for buses unconstitutional, causing a major victory in civil rights around the country.

Although his house was bombed during the bus boycott, Dr. King was not scared off; in fact, many would argue that the hate crimes directed towards him further instigated his desire to bring peace and equality among people of different races within the United States. According to the biographical account of Dr. King on the Nobel Peace Prize's website, the civil rights activist "...traveled over 6 million miles and made over 2500 speeches between 1957 and 1968". Dr. King was assassinated in April 1968 while protesting with garbage pick-up workers that had been unfairly treated on the job.

For more information on Dr. King's marches and speeches, including full texts, visit Stanford University's Martin Luther King Jr. Paper Project

NPR also has several interesting radio clips and articles relating to Dr. King, including a replay of the June 2003 conversation between Tavis Smiley and Commentator Michael Eric Dyson about Dr. King's delivery of his famous "I Have a Dream" speech in Detroit on June 28, 1963 - the first time the speech was delivered.