Martin Luther King Day is observed on the third Monday of each January. This year that day happens to fall on the late civil rights leaders actual date of birth — Jan. 15.
That, combined with the fact that Democrat politicians have tried to move us away from King's ideal of a "color-blind" society to turn us into a "color-conscious" one, makes this as good a time as any to review some of the major events in his life.
King was born Michael King Jr. in Atlanta, Georgia, on Jan. 15, 1929. After his father, Michael Sr., visited sites in Germany associated with the Reformation leader Martin Luther, he changed both his and his son's name to Martin Luther King in 1934.
At the age of 15 he began studying at Morehouse College, a historically Black private college. He worked the summer before his freshman year at a Connecticut tobacco farm, and was inspired by the lack of racial discrimination and segregation. Later, at age 17, he penned a letter on the rights of minorities that was published by The Atlanta Constitution.
King completed his studies at Crozer Theological Seminary in Upland, Pennsylvania, and became an assistant pastor at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, where his father was senior pastor.
But it wasn't until six years later when King began his pastorate at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, that his activism was ignited, beginning with the Montgomery bus boycott.
1. 1955-The Birth of an Activist
On March 2, 1955, Claudette Colvin, a 15-year-old Montgomery schoolgirl, was arrested in Montgomery for refusing to give up her bus seat for a white female passenger on a crowded city bus.
Nine months after that, on Dec. 1, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to vacate her seat on the Montgomery City Bus line for a white male passenger.
Four days later King became president of the newly formed Montgomery Improvement Association and led the Montgomery bus boycott in protest of the Jim Crow segregation laws that were predominant throughout the southern states and led to the above arrests.
During the year-long strike, emotions became so intense that King's house was firebombed.
This in turn led to the Nov. 13, 1956, U.S. Supreme Court decision in Browder v. Gayle, declaring Alabama's bus segregation laws unconstitutional and ending the 381 day Montgomery protest.
2. 1957-A National Reputation Emerges
On Jan. 10, King was named president of what became the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and four months later he delivered his first national address, "Give Us the Ballot," at the Lincoln Memorial at the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom.
3. 1963-Jail and Dreams:
But national recognition brought with it vilification from powers in the South. He was arrested at least 29 times for his activism. On April 16, 1963, King penned his "Letter from Birmingham Jail" while incarcerated for ignoring an Alabama state court injunction against demonstrations.
The letter was in response to a public statement issued by eight white religious leaders that called King's activities "unwise and untimely" and urged caution instead.
On Aug. 28, King delivered what is arguably his famous address — "I Have a Dream" — at the Lincoln Memorial to over 200,000 demonstrators at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character," he said.
4. 1963-A Year of Accolades
King began and ended 1963 with praise from others.
On Jan. 3, Time magazine referred to King as "America's Gandhi" and named him "Man of the Year."
"It is with this inner strength, tenaciously rooted in Christian concepts, that King has made himself the unchallenged voice of the Negro people—and the disquieting conscience of the whites," Time wrote.
On Dec. 10, King received the greatest accolade of them all — the Nobel Peace Prize — "for his non-violent struggle for civil rights for the Afro-American population."
At age 35, he was then the youngest recipient of the award.
5. 1965-A March for Freedom
Public support for civil rights skyrocketed on March 7, 1965, when demonstrators attempted to march from Montgomery to Selma to promote voting rights. But the march was aborted when they were assaulted by onlookers and Alabama state troopers, in what became known as "Bloody Sunday."
In response, King, James Forman, and John Lewis led more than 8,000 demonstrators on a five-day civil rights march from March 21 to 25 along the same planned route, from Selma to Montgomery, and ended with King delivering his "Our God Is Marching On" address.
6. 1967-Anti-War Activism
On April 4, King delivered a speech "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence," at a meeting of clergy and laity at Riverside Church in New York City. In it he declared his opposition to the war, and demanded that the United States take new initiatives to end the conflict.
"Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war," he said. "If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam."
7. 1968-The Mountaintop
On April 3, King led a peaceful demonstration in Memphis, Tennessee, and delivered his final major address, "I've Been to the Mountaintop." It might also be called his most prophetic, coming as it did 32 hours prior to his death by an assassin's bullet.
"And I've seen the Promised Land," King said. "I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."
On April 4 King was shot and killed on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. His was among three assassinations of national figures that occurred within less than a decade: Then-President John F. Kennedy was killed in a Dallas motorcade in 1963. Two months after King's death Robert F. Kennedy was shot down during a Los Angeles political rally.
All three were immortalized in the song "Abraham, Martin and John" performed by Dion. Here's the last verse:
"Anybody here seen my old friend Bobby?
Can you tell me where he's gone?
Thought I saw him walkin' up over the hill
With Abraham, Martin and John"
JFK was 46, RFK was 42, and MLK was 39.
Michael Dorstewitz is a retired lawyer and has been a frequent contributor to Newsmax. He is also a former U.S. Merchant Marine officer and an enthusiastic Second Amendment supporter. Read Michael Dorstewitz's Reports — More Here.
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