On Monday, the United States celebrated the life and legacy of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. He would have been 89 years old. Three years after his assassination in Memphis, the United States marked the day as “MLK Day”, and 30 years later, the day is still traditionally celebrated as one of service, honor, and resonates the legacy of King’s famous words. Not excluding his most emblematic speech, King is noted for another, that embedded his true eloquent voice to a massive, jumbled movement.
“I am in Birmingham because injustice is here …I am cognizant of the inter-relatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider…”
To those unaware of King’s imprisonment in Birmingham, the wealthiest city in Alabama, and a bastion of segregation… The mayor, police commissioner, and even the Governor of the state was known as segregationists and known for their hostility, sometimes violent treatment of blacks. King spent eight days in their cell, during which he composed his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” alluding to the quote above. The letter was received by a national audience, notably modeling King’s great-strength in passionate and persuasive writing. Once he was released from jail, the protestors grew to larger scale, mainly due to the recruitment of younger protesters. These protesters represented a hope for the future: children were the beneficiaries.
They are the future of today, and the future of tomorrow.
Martin Luther King Jr. had achieved and survived the long and brutal opposition of those who promoted segregation; and in 1964, after his legendary “I have a dream” speech, Congress passed Public Law 88-352 (78 Stat. 241), popularly known as the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The provisions of this act forbade the discrimination of race, as well as sex, which was added at the last moment, in hiring, promoting, and firing. This evidently divided and ensued a long-term change in the demographics of political support; this namely the support of the Democratic Party in the South. President Johnson had realized this, as did Attorney General Robert Kennedy, but they both had pushed for the introduction of the civil rights legislation anyways.
“… Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere…”
The fight continues, as does King’s dream. Though he did not wear a crown, the empathy, the power, and the leadership that he demonstrated until his tragic death, was no less than that of a true king. He who defends and protects against the injustice, even if humbled by those with hateful pride, will arise a better man among men. If any moment was a Coronation for Martin Luther King Jr., it would have been in Birmingham.