"I have a dream… I have a dream that one day little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today"
Each year on the third Monday of January schools, federal offices, post office and banks across America close as we celebrate the birth, the life and the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is a time for the nation to remember the injustices that Dr. King fought. A time to remember his fight for the freedom, equality, and dignity of all races and peoples. A time to remember the message of change through nonviolence.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta Georgia. His father was the minister of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, as was his father before him. "M.L.," as he was called, lived with his parents, his sister and brother in Atlanta GA. Their home was not far from the church his father preached at. M.L.'s mother and father taught their children what would become an important part of M.L.'s life - to treat all people with respect. Martin's father worked hard to break down the barriers between the races. His father believed African-Americans should register their complaints by voting.
As M.L. grew up he found that not everyone followed his parents principles. He noticed that "black" people and white people where treated differently. He saw that he and his white friends could not drink from the same water fountains and could not use the same restrooms. M.L.'s best friend as a child was a white boy and as children they played happily together. But when they reached school age the friends found that even though they lived in the same neighborhood, they could not go to the same school. M.L.'s friend would go to a school for white children only and M.L. was sent to a school for "black" children. After the first day of school M.L. and his friend were never allowed to play together again.
When M.L. was ready for college he decided to follow his father and become a minister. While attending the Crozer Theological seminary in Pennsylvania he became familiar with Mahatma Gandhi, who had struggled to free the people of India from British rule by "peaceful revolution." M.L. was also inspired by the work of Henry David Thoreau, particularly his essay called "Civil Disobedience." It stated that if enough people would follow their conscience and disobey unjust laws, they could bring about a peaceful revolution. It was also at college that M.L. met a young woman named Coretta Scott and they would eventually marry. In 1954 M.L. received his PhD. And accepted the job of pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama Martin Luther King, Jr. would now be addressed as "Dr. King".
Dr. King's involvement with the civil rights movement began with the arrest of Mrs. Rosa Parks on December 1st, 1955. Mrs. Parks, a African-American seamstress on her way home from work, was arrested for not giving a white bus rider her seat. Mrs. Parks was not the first African-American to be arrested for this "crime", but she was well known in the Montgomery African– American community.
Dr. King and the other African– American community leaders felt a protest was needed. The African-American residents of the city were asked to boycott the bus company by walking and driving instead. The United States Supreme Court would end the boycott, which lasted 381 days, by declaring that Alabama's state and local laws requiring segregation on buses were illegal. The boycott was a success and Dr. King had showed that peaceful mass action could bring about change. In January 1957 the Souther Christian Leadership Conference (SCLSC) was formed with Dr. King as their president. The following May 17, Dr. King would lead a mass march of 37,000 people to the front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Dr. King had become the undisputed leader of the civil rights movement. Partly in response to the march, on September 9, 1957, the US Congress created the Civil Rights Commission and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, an official body with the authority to investigate voting irregularities. Dr. King and the SCLC organized drives for African-American voter registration, desegregation, and better education and housing throughout the South. Dr. King continued to speak. He went to many cities and towns. He was greeted by crowds of people who wanted to hear him speak. He said all people have the right to equal treatment under the law. Many people believed in these civil rights and worked hard for them.
To be continued…