The King legend lives on
By Ken K. Gourdin
Author’s Note: The following feature appeared on Page 10 of the January 24, 1992 edition of Dixie College’s (now Dixie State’s) award-winning student newspaper, The Dixie Sun.
Most of us are a generation removed from the era of Martin Luther King, Jr. We are a generation removed from the march for civil rights led by King in which he entered his now-immortal words, “I have a dream,” and a generation removed from the jailing of King in Birmingham, Ala. for his anti-racism activities.
To many, King was the leader of leaders, the man who held aloft the beacon to follow in the struggle for human rights. To others King was an enigma, because they didn’t understand the source of his motivation nor the urgency he felt for that struggle. But whether or not they agreed with his methods or understood his motivation, none could deny that King left his own unique indelible mark on human history.
Martin Luther King[, Jr.], was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Ga. His father was a Baptist minister and his mother was a schoolteacher. After his graduation from Morehouse College in 1948, King decided to follow the footsteps of his father and namesake into the ministry. In 1951, he received a Bachelor of Divinity degree from [Crozier] Theological Seminary, [as well a] Doctor of Divinity Degree from Boston University School of Theology in 1955.
In 1957, King founded what later became the Southern Christian Leadership [C]onference, an organization which achieved great prominent at the peak of the civil rights movement and is still in existence today. In 1963, Time magazine named King its Man of the Year, and in 1964 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the youngest recipient of that award in history.
In 1964, King’s activities as an “outsider” in Birmingham, Ala. were denounced by a group of eight clergymen in a public statement. King, who was incarcerated in Birmingham jail at the time, defended his presence in the city by saying[,] “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here,” and adding that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
The clergymen denounced King’s “creation of tension,” and he countered by saying that “there is a type of construction, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth” and saying that there is a need to use nonviolence means to create societal tension which will “help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.”
During his speech at the March on Washington in 1963, King said, “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.’”
He then went on to say that his dream was to see the gulf bridged between racism and equality, between segregation and integration and between violence and peace. Then he expressed the hope 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 concluded his speech with the following words “. . . [W]hen we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, every state and every city, we will be able to speed up the day when all . . . will be able to join hands and sing in the words of that old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we’re free at last.’”
King’s life came to an end when he was shot by an assassin as he stood conferring with friends and aides on the balcony of his room at the Loraine Hotel in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968. Though his life was cut short before his dream was realized, his legacy lives on.