Martin Luther King Jr’s Legacy of Activism Is Still Present Today

Filed in American Culture by on January 18, 2018 0 Comments

j1-journeys-mlk-2018Martin Luther King Jr’s commitment to nonviolence and activism is celebrated across the United States this week, with Americans encouraged to participate in a “Day of Service” in honor of his legacy. Celebrated on the third Monday of January, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is observed each year in conjunction with King’s January 15 birthday.

King is heralded as being one of the most visible and influential leaders of the civil rights movement, instrumental in combatting racial inequality against black people in the 1950s and 60s. He is best known for using nonviolence and civil disobedience—tactics inspired by the peaceful activism of Mahatma Gandhi—to advance his message. Before his assassination in 1968, King likewise became an outspoken advocate against war and economic injustice.

Though King’s interests and influence were widespread, the activist and preacher was key in several turning points throughout the civil rights movement.

He was originally recognized for his activism in 1955, when he helped lead the Montgomery bus boycott campaign to protest the policy of racial segregation on public transportation. King’s role in this campaign positioned him as the figure head of the civil rights movement.

Central to King’s work were several intersecting issues, including acquiring the right to vote for black people, labor rights, desegregation, and basic civil rights. King was again instrumental in the recognition and implementation of these rights with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Thanks in large part to King’s influence, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed both pieces of legislation into law, prohibiting racial discrimination in schools, employment, public accommodations, and voting.

King’s steadfast commitment to these causes was perhaps best captured in his most famous “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Throughout the 17-minute speech, King repeatedly referenced his hope for what America could like in the future, declaring:

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal’… 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.”

Though King’s wishes for the nation are far from achieved, his legacy has continued to push the United States forward in the face of racism and discrimination of all kinds.

How did you honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy this year? Share in the comments below.