All of my life growing up, I remember learning about the life and times of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Today, he is known as the face of the civil rights movement in the United States alongside other famous figures like Rosa Parks. His tragic assassination in 1968 came after a career as a minister and social activist.
His efforts included ending the legal segregation of blacks and whites in the United States alongside the creation of the Civil Rights Act (1964) and Voting Rights Act (1965). In 1964, Dr. King won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Dr. King was probably most well-known for his famous speech, “I Have a Dream.” The speech, aptly preceded, went down in history as the “greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.” Dr. King was a gifted orator and impassioned speaker.
But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
Alongside I Have A Dream, Dr. King’s “Letters from a Birmingham Jail” was an open letter, written in April of 1963 after Dr. King was arrested as a participant in demonstrations against segregation.
I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”
Dr. King is the only non-President to have a federal holiday dedicated in his honor. Although his actual birthday is January 15th, the holiday is celebrated on the third Monday of ever year. All over the country, hundreds of organizations named in the honor of the late Dr. King are held including parades, religious services and calls for further civil liberties. I am proud to say that in San Francisco, the Northern California Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Foundation works tirelessly to ensure the visions of Dr. King in today’s ever-changing world. Through programs in health, social justice, civic engagement, art and culture, the organization brings greater access to those in need while building a just and beloved community for all.