In Black America Podcast: Remembering The Dreamer
On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. presents a tribute to the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. During the less than 13 years of King’s leadership of the modern Civil Rights Movement, from December 1955 until April 4th, 1968, African Americans achieved more genuine progress toward racial equality in this country than the previous 350 years had produced. King is widely regarded as America’s pre-eminent advocate of nonviolence and one of the greatest nonviolent leaders in world history.
Drawing inspiration from both his Christian faith and the peaceful teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, King led a nonviolent movement in the late 1950’s and ‘60s to achieve legal equality for African Americans in this country. While others were advocating for freedom by “any means necessary,” including violence, King used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance, such as protests, grassroots organizing, and civil disobedience to achieve seemingly impossible goals. He went on to lead similar campaigns against poverty and international conflict, always maintaining fidelity to his principles that men and women everywhere, regardless of color or creed, are equal members of the human family.
He is the only non-president to have a national holiday dedicated in his honor, and is the only non-president memorialized on the Great Mall in the nation’s capitol. He is memorialized in hundreds of statues, parks, streets, squares, churches and other public facilities around the world as a leader whose teachings are increasingly relevant to the progress of humankind.
In 1955, he was recruited to serve as spokesman for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which was a campaign by the African-American population of Montgomery, Alabama to force integration of the city’s bus lines. After 381 days of nearly universal participation by citizens of the African American community, many of whom had to walk miles to work each day as a result, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in transportation was unconstitutional.
In 1957, King was elected the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), an organization designed to provide new leadership for the now burgeoning civil rights movement. He would serve as head of the SCLC until his assassination in 1968, a period during which he would emerge as the most important social leader of the modern Civil Rights movement.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s less than thirteen years of nonviolent leadership ended abruptly and tragically on April 4th, 1968, when he was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. His body was returned to his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, where high-level leaders of all races and political stripes attended his funeral ceremony.