While Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is celebrated on the third Monday of every January, which is next week, I want to acknowledge and celebrate this incredible ‘peace warrior’ on the day of his birth.
It was 84 years ago today in Atlanta, Georgia that his mother, Alberta Christine Williams King, gave birth to her second, a boy. He was welcomed into the world by her, his father Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr., and 17-month old sister Willie Christine King, and when he was 18-months old he became a big brother to Alfred Daniel Williams King. The King’s middle child grew into a man who generated change and improved the world.
Here is a wonderful description of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:
Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the pivotal leaders of the American civil rights movement. King was a Baptist minister, one of the few leadership roles available to black men at the time. He became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955–1956) and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (1957), serving as its first president. His efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Here he raised public consciousness of the civil rights movement and established himself as one of the greatest orators in U.S. history. In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end segregation and racial discrimination through civil disobedience and other non-violent means.
King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter in 1977. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established as a national holiday in the United States in 1986. In 2004, King was posthumously awarded a Congressional Gold Medal. [source: GoodReads]
While he was an American, his work went beyond borders and boundaries. He is a beloved icon the world over. This is from Wikipedia:
One place outside the United States where Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is observed with equal importance is in the Japanese city of Hiroshima under mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, who holds a special banquet at the mayor’s office as an act of unifying his city’s call for peace with King’s message of human rights. The City of Toronto, Canada, is another city that has officially recognized Martin Luther King Jr. Day, although it is not a paid holiday, and government services and businesses remain open.
In 1984, during a visit by the U.S. Sixth Fleet, Navy chaplain Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff conducted the first Israeli Presidential ceremony in commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, held in the President’s Residence, Jerusalem. Mrs. Aura Herzog, wife of Israel’s then-President Chaim Herzog, noted that she was especially proud to host this special event, because Israel had a national forest in honor of Dr. King, and that Israel and Dr. King shared the idea of “dreams”. Resnicoff continued this theme in his remarks during the ceremony, quoting the verse from Genesis, spoken by the brothers of Joseph when they saw their brother approach, “Behold the dreamer comes; let us slay him and throw him into the pit, and see what becomes of his dreams.” Resnicoff noted that, ‘from time immemorial, there have been those who thought they could kill the dream by slaying the dreamer, but – as the example of Dr. King’s life shows – such people are always wrong’. [source: Wikipedia]
This excerpt from the 1967 Massey Lectures suggests that the admiration Canadians had for him (and forever will) was mutual:
“It is a deep personal privilege to address a nationwide Canadian audience. Over and above any kinship of U.S. citizens and Canadians as North Americans, there is a singular historical relationship between American Negroes and Canadians.
Canada is not merely a neighbour to Negroes. Deep in our history of struggle for freedom Canada was the North Star. The Negro slave, denied education, de-humanized, imprisoned on cruel plantations, knew that far to the north a land existed where a fugitive slave, if he survived the horrors of the journey, could find freedom. The legendary underground railroad started in the south and ended in Canada.
The freedom road links us together. Our spirituals, now so widely admired around the world, were often codes. We sang of ‘heaven’ that awaited us, and the slave masters listened in innocence, not realizing that we were not speaking of the hereafter. Heaven was the word for Canada and the Negro sang of the hope that his escape on the underground railroad would carry him there.
One of our spirituals, ‘Follow the Drinking Gourd’, in its disguised lyrics contained directions for escape. The gourd was the big dipper, and the North Star to which its handle pointed gave the celestial map that directed the flight to the Canadian border.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr. [source: McGill]
If you have not already visited the official website of the foundation continuing his legacy and his work, I encourage you to do so. The website for the King Center is well organized with so much to read and learn about. Enjoy!
Official Website: http://www.thekingcenter.org/
Established in 1968 by Coretta Scott King, The King Center is the official, living memorial dedicated to advancing the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Our programs and partnerships educate the world about his life and his philosophy of nonviolence, inspiring new generations to further his work.