On this January day we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one of the world’s best-known advocates for non-violent social change. A true inspiration throughout his life, Dr. King entered Morehouse College at age 15 after skipping both 9th and 12th grades, and later attended seminary in Pennsylvania then completed his doctorate in philosophy at Boston University. Along the way he became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, at only twenty-five years of age. It was in Alabama that Dr. King led the Montgomery Bus Boycott after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to surrender her bus seat to a white passenger. King later joined other civil rights activists in establishing the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization that advocated boycotts and other forms of nonviolent protest as methods to oppose all forms of social segregation. Dr. King served as the SCLC’s first president and was instrumental in organizing the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which called for civil and economic rights for African Americans and was the United States’ largest political rally for human rights. It was there that Dr. King delivered his famous speech, “I Have A Dream.” The following January, Time magazine placed him on their cover with the designation “Man of the Year.” His work to end racial discrimination through nonviolent means, including civil disobedience, earned Dr. King the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, making him the youngest person to ever receive the award up to that time.
Dr. King’s life and work brought focus to the need for expanding societal values to become “color blind,” and his legacy lives on as an inspiration to stand firm against injustice of any kind. Though he lived a very short life – assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, at the age of 39 – Dr. King is an iconic figure in American history and for civil rights worldwide. It is a testament that most every major city in America has streets and public buildings named after him. The national holiday that America celebrates today was first observed in 1986 in honor of Dr. King’s birthday of January 15, and a new memorial was opened to the public in Washington, D.C., on August 22nd of last year. A crescent-shaped inscription wall serves as the main entrance to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial, which is located along the Tidal Basin at the National Mall, and the memorial utilizes landscape elements to powerfully convey four fundamental themes found in Dr. King’s message: justice, democracy, hope and love. The official address of the monument is 1964 Independence Avenue SW, commemorating the year that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law.
As Christians we are called to embrace the same values that Dr. King fought for throughout his life and ministry. By embracing our differences and expanding our cultural boundaries, we honor our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Dr. King used his influence to promote a mission of equality. Jesus commands us to love one another, just as God has loved us. Through compassion, equality, and forgiveness, we show ourselves to be servants of the Lord. We honor Dr. King today for his passion and commitment. May you be inspired as you join us in declaring Christ’s glory among the nations.
“With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
photo via flickr: EisenPhotoVideo
Information in this post was originally gathered by Kim Gryglewicz, Northeast Division Coordinator for Joshua Expeditions. If you are an educator traveling with Joshua Expeditions and would like to receive future mailings of our American Heritage Newsletter, please contact Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org.