Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an advocate of peace who believed that social change and racial equality could only be obtained through peaceful means. He devoted his short-lived life to his family, his church and to the equal rights movement; promoting equality for all minorities, specifically African-Americans, who had patiently waited for equality since the abolition of slavery.
The civil rights that Dr. King sought were non-existent at the time, or were denied to minorities and blacks. He worked tirelessly in pursuit of equality, to end segregation and discriminatory practices related to housing, labor, voting and lending.
A century after the institution of the 13th amendment, America still remained racially divided. African-Americans were denied fundamental rights as well as the access and use of public places – including libraries, parks, beaches, restaurants, theatres, restrooms, and the right to equal educational opportunities, voting, and protection from police brutality.
During the early 1960’s social injustice was still vibrant. Riots, fires, lynching and the infamous attacks by the Ku Klux Klan, the Cahaba boys and other related groups against African-Americans were frequent, and justice was not served.
Prior to Dr. King’s courageous efforts to seek change and create awareness by reaching-out to the nation, racism and hatred were still evident and consuming this great nation. Dr. King’s legacy brought about change. The change that was necessary to move the nation forward, to institute a sense of tranquility and establish peace among all races.
Dr. King’s movement was a resounding success. During the 1960’s the civil rights issue was one of the most important events in America’s politics. Dr. King’s actions facilitated the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Dr. King also became famous for his peaceful marches and speeches. The most symbolic and remarkable speech, which has carried on his legacy through today, is the “I Have a Dream” speech, which he courageously delivered on the steps of the Lincoln memorial in the nation’s capital, accompanied by the largest crowd in American history ever gathered for such purposes.
Dr. King’s wishes were fulfilled soon after his assassination. His wrongful death prevented him from the quiet enjoyment of today’s liberties and racial comingling. But his children, predecessors and the American people today enjoy what he was stripped of and righteously fought for.
America has come a long way since the assassination of Dr. King on April 4, 1968 and is committed to ensure that his legacy lives on.
Dr. King’s actions gave rise to a new era in America. Since his assassination, the government has enacted and enforced legislation to ensure equality among all. Desegregation, equal rights, housing, voting, lending, education, labor, racial equality, legal protection and justice for all is now part of a legal system, that protects all racial groups and denominations equally and justly.
Dr. King was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1965, the congressional gold medal in 1977, and the congressional Medal of Freedom in 2004. In 1983, the federal government established Martin Luther King Jr. as a federal holiday, but it was not observed until January, 1986 due to opposition by members of congress, including Jesse Helms and John McCain.
The holiday is celebrated with parades throughout the nation to honor Dr. King. Many streets and parks nationwide have been named after Dr. King in his honor. The holiday is celebrated the third Wednesday of January and is now recognized and observed by the public and private sector.