Monday, January 18, 2010

One Vision

Magnet # 145: MLK National Holiday

Material: Metal, Paper, Mylar Shell

Purchased By: Me

Ever since 1986, the third Monday of January has been set aside to honor the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. toward achieving racial equality. Today, across the United States, parades, sermons, lectures, and other special events are being given to remember this great man. There's even a parade here in Savannah that wraps around nearly the entire downtown area, including, of course, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

He was actually born Michael King, Jr., a name he had for over a decade until the King family traveled to Germany. When his father, a Baptist minister, became more familiar with the work of Martin Luther, initiator of the Protestant Revolution, he changed both of their names to honor Luther. King received a great deal of lessons from his father and followed him into the ministry. After he studied extensively, earning his doctorate from Boston University, he received his first job as a pastor working at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, where he was also active in the local NAACP chapter. When Rosa Parks was arrested and the Montgomery Bus Boycott began, King found himself becoming the leader of this organized protest. He led from his pulpit and by his actions, never backing down, but refusing to resort to violence, even if his enemies did. King was arrested, and his home was bombed one January night, but he and his allies finally prevailed and bus segregation came to an end, and he became a nationally recognizable leader of the Civil Rights Movement. Around this time, King traveled to India. Although Mahatma Gandi was dead by then, he was able to talk to his surviving family members and gain a greater understanding of his tactics. The trip had a tremendous effect on King, and reaffirmed his commitment to bring about change with non-violent means. When he returned to the United States, he traveled extensively, giving speeches and organizing protests and sit-ins, and publishing his own accounts of them. King felt he could capture the attention of the media by these actions, and gain sympathy from many Americans once they were more familiar with the difficulties African Americans were facing. In Albany, Georgia, he was arrested for his participation in peaceful protests refused to be bailed until the city changed some of their segregation laws. When they went back on their word, King returned. He also spent nine days in jail in Birmingham, where he and other citizens tried to fill those cells to overflowing to bring attention to unjust laws, and finally brought about greater equality in retail stores there. He led a march to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. Finally, in 1963, King had become so well-known that he led the largest group of protesters ever to gather in Washington D.C., where he delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It was perhaps King's finest moment, and it would give him a lasting place in the history of our country.

Over the course of his life, King had been arrested more than twenty times, received numerous death threats, and had even been assaulted four times. Soon after the Montgomery bus Boycott came to an end, an insane black woman stabbed him in the chest with a letter opener as he was at a book signing and he nearly died. It was incredible that he never backed down regardless of these events, but it almost seemed inevitable that his life was going to end in violence. And, as we all know, it did. When King was standing on the balcony of his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee, he was gunned down by James Earl Ray. Just six years after King's assassination, his mother Alberta was murdered in at her church by an insane man who claimed to hate all Christians. And King may have died, but his legacy lives on. Segregation is an ugly sin of the past in America. Each day, racial equality becomes stronger in the United States and around the world. Perhaps another individual could have accomplished what King did, but with his intelligence, education, eloquence, appeal, courage, and refusal to give up - no matter what, he became the force behind the Civil Rights Movement, and it might have never been as successful without his leadership. And every year on this day, we remember and celebrate all he did for our country.

And, yes, I took full advantage of the holiday King provided so many of us with by getting out of town to have some adventures with a friend. But I'll have lots more to say about that later this week when I post a proper magnet from that trip - of course, I bought plenty...

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