Monday, January 21, will mark the official holiday celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Born on January 15, 1929 had he lived he would be 84 years old. Some radio stations and facebook pages honor his memory by encouraging mankind to become better citizens in their community or by commemorating one of his many speeches. For African-Americans this should be a day of reflection and thanksgiving for those who were willing to the price for freedom. For others who lived through it all, no matter the color, it should be a day to look at America and see what still needs to be done.
But before there was a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., there were others who took up the banner of human rights and liberty for all American citizens. These people were known as Abolitionist or anti-slavery advocates. Abolitionist believed and stood on the foundation of the Bible which states, “God created man. Male and Female created he them.” In this truth, they believed all men were created equal. Many abolitionists took their arguments to churches that participated or justified slavery stating, “God is love.” For a man to enslave another man and mistreat him is not love.
One such abolitionist was William Lloyd Garrison (1805 – 1879) who advocated the immediate release from slavery. He founded the first anti-slavery newspaper called, the Liberator. Garrison continued to publish this anti-slavery newspaper until after the Civil War ended in 1865. He was for the rights of black American inhabitants and women’s rights during the height of slavery. By 1833, there were over two million blacks living in slavery. Slavery was said to be as important to America as the land itself.
Another important abolitionist in American history was Angelina Grimke´ (1805 – 1879) who fought along side of Garrison speaking bodly in public against the evils of slavery. She believed slavery was a sin punishable by God. However, her pedigree said other wise. Her father was a wealthy slave owner in Charleston, North Carolina. But after witnessing first hand a slave being sold on an auction block while screaming for her child, Grimke´ was forever changed. She saw the slave as being human. She wrote to Garrison, he published her letter, and she joined in the fight for the liberation of all slaves.
A history lesson is sometimes necessary to understand why we celebrate in spite of current racial troubles. During the celebration of the Dr. King holiday remember there were others that came before him who held fast to the same dream of freedom for all of mankind. Others who wanted to hold hands while singing that old Negro Spiritual, “Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, I am free at last.” The dream still lives.