Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. on the 25th MLK Day

HISTORY FEATURES:

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. DAY

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

IN FOCUS:

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IN FOCUS

  • Martin Luther King Jr., Jan. 15, 1929 to April 4, 1968: “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. 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!” With these words, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. built a crescendo to his final speech on April 3, 1968. The next day, the civil rights leader was shot and killed on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn…. – NYT
  • Obama, nation commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. DayChicago Times-Union
  • The King Center: The official, living memorial dedicated to the advancement of the legacy of King. Founded by Coretta Scott King. – www.thekingcenter.org/
  • “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.
    I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.
    I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.”
  • “I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land! 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.”
  • “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
  • “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
  • “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
  • “As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”
  • “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

THE HEADLINES….

Michelle Obama's 'Embarrassing' 47th Birthday Serenade

  • Obama Honors Martin Luther King Jr: U.S. President Barack Obama has honored slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. by taking part in a service project at a local school. Mr. Obama, his wife Michelle and their two children participated in a painting project Monday, the federal holiday that honors King. Members of the president’s Cabinet are attending memorial events and taking part in community service projects across the nation.
    At the school, President Obama said King’s dream was for equality and justice, as well as service to the country. The King Center in Atlanta caps more than a week of events Monday with commemorative ceremonies, volunteer activities and community programs…. – VOA, 1-17-11
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at 25: The message remains powerful: That question is the backdrop as the United States on Monday marks the 25th federal observance of Martin Luther King Day (see below for a timeline). Illinois became the first state, in 1973, to sign into law a King holiday, thanks to representative, and future Chicago mayor, Harold Washington…. – THE SPRINGFIELD STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER, 1-15-11
  • Clarence B. Jones: On Martin Luther King Day, remembering the first draft of ‘I Have a Dream’: It was the late spring of 1963, and my friend Martin was exhausted. The campaign to integrate the public facilities in Birmingham had been successful but also tremendously taxing. In its aftermath, he wanted nothing more than to take Coretta and the children away for a vacation and forget – forget the looming book deadline, the office politics of his ever-growing Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the constant need to raise funds.
    But a date for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom had been nailed down – Aug. 28 – and Martin realized he couldn’t plan such a massive undertaking with the usual endless interruptions. No, if this march were going to come together in time, he would have to escape all the distractions. (This was a man, after all, whose best writing was done inside a jail cell.) He needed to get away to a place where very few people could reach him…. – WaPo, 1-16-11
  • Martin Luther King Day: “I have a dream”: In his historic speech from the Lincoln Memorial on August 23, 1963, Martin Luther King called for racial equality and an end to discrimination.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Why are you thankful?: On April 5, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a day of national mourning, saying in part: “Men of all races, all religions, all regions must join together in this hour to deny violence its victory — and to fulfill the vision of brotherhood that gave purpose to Martin Luther King’s life and work. … In our churches, in our homes, and in our private hearts, let us resolve before God to stand against divisiveness in our country and all its consequences.”
    On Monday, for the 43rd year, the country will pause in remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr. This year will mark an even bigger tribute with the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, slated to open in August in Washington… – WaPo, 1-16-11
  • About a third of Americans say Obama’s presidency has improved race relations: Despite high public expectations that Barack Obama’s presidency would improve race relations in the country, barely more than a third of all Americans now say his tenure has made things better in this area, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Overall, 35 percent say Obama has helped race relations; down from 58 percent who, in January 2009, expected them to improve as a result of the country’s having its first black president. And blacks and whites continue to have starkly different assessments about how African Americans are faring in America today when it comes to the racial equality championed by Martin Luther King, Jr. WaPo, 1-17-11Full Story
  • For the Obamas, a Day of Service: President Obama took his family to a local middle school to participate in a painting project to help celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, calling attention to service projects around the nation in honor of the slain civil rights leader. Mr. Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Malia and Sasha, went to Stuart Hobson Middle School in Washington where they met mentors and the young people they were helping with different projects. It is Mrs. Obama’s 47th birthday, and she was greeted with a lively rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
    “Michelle and I and the girls are extraordinarily proud that each year on Martin Luther King’s birthday this is how we celebrate is making sure we’re giving back to the community,” Mr. Obama said. Referring indirectly to the shootings in Tucson on Jan. 8, he said: “After a painful week where so many of us were focused on tragedy, it’s good for us to remind ourselves what this country is all about. This kind of service project is what’s best in us.” The Obamas helped paint apple characters in the cafeteria to encourage healthy eating…. – NYT, 1-17-11
  • President Barack Obama: “This is just an outstanding program, an example of what Martin Luther King’s birthday should be all about … Dr. King obviously had a dream of justice and equality in our society but he also had a dream of service, that you could be a drum major for service, that you could lead by giving back to our communities. That’s what this program is all about.” “Michelle and I and the girls are extraordinarily proud that each year on Martin Luther King’s birthday this is how we celebrate is making sure we’re giving back to the community.” –
  • On his day, Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of peace lauded in wake of Arizona shootings: The nation observed the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday on Monday with thousands volunteering for service projects and more reflecting on his lessons of nonviolence and civility in the week following the shootings in Arizona.
    Six people were killed in Tucson and Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is fighting for her life. The violent outburst was a reminder to many gathered at King’s former church in Atlanta that the Baptist preacher’s message remained relevant nearly four decades after his own untimely death at the hands of an assassin.
    Attorney General Eric Holder praised him as “our nation’s greatest drum major of peace” and said the Jan. 8 bloodshed was a call to recommit to King’s values of nonviolence, tolerance, compassion and justice. “Last week a senseless rampage in Tucson reminded us that more than 40 years after Dr. King’s own tragic death, our struggle to eradicate violence and to promote peace goes on,” Holder said.
    President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle volunteered to paint for a service project at a middle school in Washington’s Capitol Hill. He urged Americans to get out into their communities — a step he suggested would have special meaning following the shootings. “After a painful week where so many of us were focused on the tragedy, it’s good for us to remind ourselves of what this country is all about,” he said…. – Chicago Tribune, 1-17-11
  • Obama recalls MLK’s Challenge of a New Age in holiday sermon: President Barack Obama spent his Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service at the Vermont Avenue Baptist Church in Washington DC today…. Obama’s speech at Vermont Avenue Baptist ended four minutes shy of 30 minutes. He ended the sermon stating “it’s faith that gives me peace. The same faith that leads a single mother to work two jobs to put a roof over her head when she has doubts. The same faith that keeps an unemployed father to keep on submitting job applications even after he’s been rejected a hundred times. The same faith that says to a teacher even if the first nine children she’s teaching she can’t reach, that the 10th one she’s going to be able to reach.”
    He asked the congregation to “hold fast to that faith, as Joshua held fast to the faith of his fathers, and together, we shall overcome the challenges of a new age. Together we shall seize the promise of this moment. Together, we shall make a way through winter, and we’re going to welcome the spring. Through God all things are possible.”
    Obama exited in hopes that the “memory of Dr. Martin Luther King continue to inspire us and ennoble our world and all who inhabit it.”
    President Obama is the first Democratic president in contemporary memory to freely call upon God, faith and religion without reservation to party politics or liberal ideologies…. – HULIQ, 1-17-11
  • On holiday, Massachusetts honors Martin Luther King Jr.: Some 1,000 people honored Martin Luther King Jr. this morning at the city’s annual holiday breakfast in his name, remembering the slain civil rights leader as a transformative force for good and pledging to build upon his legacy.
    “He showed us the path,” said Martha Coakley, the state’s attorney general, who paid tribute to King as an inspiring figure who “fought for the dignity of every human being.”
    In a well-received speech at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, keynote speaker Melissa Harris-Perry drew parallels between today’s divisive political climate and 1967, the year of King’s final book “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?”… – Boston Globe, 1-17-11
  • NY leaders gather to mark King day: New York’s civic leaders are gathering with the Rev. Al Sharpton to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are among those scheduled to participate in Sharpton’s annual event at held at his National Action Network headquarters in Harlem. There were several other city leaders slated to speak at the forum. Sharpton held a breakfast event earlier Monday in Washington…. – WSJ, 1-17-11
  • Obama attends church services in D.C. on Sunday: Metroplian AME was filled with people who are waiting to see the Obama family. “We have been waiting to see this for two years,” said one church member as he passed through a line of metal detectors. President Obama and the first family will join D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray to worship at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Northwest during a service that will reflect on the spiritual fervor of Martin Luther King Jr.
    Last year the president delivered a major address the Sunday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the Districts Vermont Avenue Baptist Church where King spoke when he was alive. White House sources say this year the president has chosen to sit quietly in the pews with members of the historic church and listen along with his family and other White House officials. The Rev. Ronald E. Braxton, pastor of the historic congregation founded in 1838, will deliver the sermon from a church designated as the “national cathedral” of the African Methodist Episcopal Church that has more than 7,000 churches and 3 million members around the world…. – WaPo, 1-16-11
  • For Some Students in the South, a King Day Lacking That ‘Holiday’ Feature: …By state law, the only holiday he cannot cancel is Veterans Day. His solution? Make children go to school on Monday, the day when most of the nation’s schools are closed to observe Martin Luther King’s Birthday.
    In the South, where establishing an official holiday for Dr. King was long in coming, that kind of move can be particularly controversial. But administrators in a handful of districts in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina say they have no choice after this past week of unusually brutal ice and snow in the South put the district behind schedule.
    That is not going over well with some parents and politicians.
    “It always seems like Martin Luther King day is the first one they are willing to give up,” said Dot Scott, president of the Charleston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
    The Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton have also weighed in. “We’re urging people to keep their kids home,” Mr. Sharpton said. “It’s un-American not to observe the holiday.”… – NYT, 1-14-11
  • Rochelle Riley: What would Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Dream’ be today?: His life has become part of our history texts — the Baptist minister who led the 1955 bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., who four years before his death became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, the man who gave the Speech. For this year’s celebration of King’s dream, I interviewed metro Detroiters about King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which he delivered in Detroit and then in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1963….
    As America debates what hate speech can ignite and whether vicious political rhetoric can be a match, I wonder whether one who dared to dream now might be drowned out by a million YouTube dismissals or the catcalls of boorish ideologues who see only the America they want? Had King lived to be 82, what would he write now? What would you say if you were giving the Speech?… – Detroit FREEP, 1-15-11
  • Taking to roads to find Martin Luther King’s legacy: It started as a series of high school road trips, chances to venture out of the District with the loose intention of picking apart a well-worn Chris Rock joke about the violence on streets named after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
    Eight teenagers from five D.C. high schools criss-crossed the country with two mentors and video cameras, visiting more than a dozen “MLK streets.” Their driving tours in 2008 coincided with the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, putting the students between a history they barely knew and history in the making.
    The documentary they produced is still in rough cut, though it was aired at Anacostia Library as a run-up to the Martin Luther King holiday. But the images they now carry with them, they said, have reshaped how they think about themselves and their world…. – WaPo, 1-17-11
  • CPS students honor King by lending a helping hand: Chicago Public Schools students and faculty volunteered today to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a day of service.
    Students from Bogan High School filled bag after bag with food in the basement of Epiphany Catholic Church in Little Village, helping the regular volunteers prepare for a Monday food pantry.
    “It’s good to give the kids an opportunity to help out and do something good for the community,” said Rozella Garrett, who has volunteered with the food pantry every Monday for 40 years. “They’re a great help.”… – Chicago Tribune, 1-17-11
  • King Day presents opportunity for celebration, teaching Educators, historians discuss challenges of teaching his life, legacy: All of the elements were in place at Leith Walk Elementary School for a proper Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday celebration. Students at the Northeast Baltimore school were prepped with songs from the civil rights movement; Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday” was on deck. They’d completed assignments detailing their own dreams earlier in the week and listened in awe as Tony Marshall, who works for the school system, recited the “I Have a Dream” speech, excerpts from the work that he had learned decades earlier as a fourth-grader at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School.
    For many schoolchildren, this kind of celebration has been a hallmark of King Day ever since the holiday, which is marked around the nation today, was established 25 years ago. But some experts and educators say that students need to know more about King’s life and legacy to place him in historical context. “There was a long legacy of heroes and ‘she-roes’ that led to Dr. King,” said Raymond A. Winbush, director of the Institute of Urban Research at Morgan State University. “As educators, we’ve got to contextualize Dr. King in the struggle for human rights, and we just don’t do that.”… – Baltimore Sun, 1-16-11
  • Dr. King and New York City: The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is identified mostly with Washington and the South, but he was officially an honorary New Yorker and the city plays a not insignificant role in his biography. In 1958, 10 years before he was assassinated in Memphis, Dr. King was autographing copies of his book, “Stride Toward Freedom,” in a Harlem department store when a deranged women stabbed him with a letter opener. He was taken to Harlem Hospital for surgery.
    In the summer of 1964, after the shooting of a 15-year-old by an off-duty police officer touched off riots in Harlem, Mayor Robert F. Wagner invited Dr. King to New York on a peace mission (one made slightly more complicated by the fact that some black leaders resented that the mayor had invited Dr. King without consulting them). Later that year, one week after he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway, Dr. King was proclaimed an honorary New Yorker by the mayor who presented him with the Medallion of Honor at City Hall…. – NYT, 1-16-11
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day shares holiday with Gen. Robert E. Lee Day: In Arkansas, it’s not only Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it’s also the state holiday Gen. Robert E. Lee Day. That’s causing some heated discussion. Lee was a commander in the confederate army. His birthday is Wednesday. State lawmakers voted to make it a legal holiday back in 1947. On the State of Arkansas Facebook page, they wished everyone a happy holiday for both holidays and it spawned several comments both negative and positive. Alabama and Mississippi have the duel holiday as well…. – Todays THV AK, 1-17-11

QUOTES

President Barack Obama Helps Paint Pictures of Fruit During a Service Project on Martin Luther King Day

  • “An Example of What Martin Luther King’s Birthday Should Be All About”: THE PRESIDENT: This is just an outstanding program, an example of what Martin Luther King’s birthday should be all about. I want to thank all the mentees and mentors who are participating.
    Dr. King obviously had a dream of justice and equality in our society, but he also had a dream of service, that you could be a drum major for service, that you could lead by giving back to our communities. And that’s what this program is all about and that’s what these participants are all about.
    Michelle and I the girls are extraordinarily proud that each year on Martin Luther King’s birthday this is how we celebrate, is making sure that we’re giving a little something back to the community. And I hope that all the projects that are taking place all across the country on this day are getting similar attention, because this is part of what America is all about. And after a painful week where so many of us were focused on tragedy, it’s good for us to remind ourselves what this country is all about. This kind of service project is what’s best in us and we’re thrilled with everybody who is participating. – WH, 1-17-11
  • Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King’s Life and Legacy: Secretary Salazar reports on the progress underway at the memorial being constructed on the National Mall in Dr. Martin Luther King’s honor…. – WH, 1-17-11
  • John McCain: Commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy today. He was a true American hero who stood up to adversity and will continue to impact our country for generations to come.
  • Sarah Palin: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
    Today is a day to reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King dedicated himself to justice and the struggles of an imperfect world. In the face of fierce opposition, he stood up for the oppressed, and he ultimately sacrificed all for equality and freedom. His was a remarkable life of love and service for all mankind. His work must continue.
    With Dr. King’s faith in God and his unwavering hope in a brighter, stronger future, let us recommit today to continuing his work for a more peaceful and just nation…. – Fox News, 1-17-11
  • Giffords’ husband urges volunteer service: The husband of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is urging Americans to volunteer in their communities on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. “Many of you have asked how you can help and how you can honor the memory of those who were wounded or lost their lives. What united the victims of the tragedy on Saturday was service – they volunteered in church or at soup kitchens, worked in government, and tended to their communities. On behalf of Gabby and our family, I ask that you consider honoring their commitment to service by dedicating a few hours on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, this Monday, January 17th, to volunteer in your community,” Mark Kelly said in a statement distributed by the Giffords for Congress campaign.
    Kelly also said in the statement that “The prayers and good wishes from the people of Southern Arizona and the country are deeply appreciated by our family. Your continued outpouring of support is powerful. As Gabby continues her recovery, I know she will be inspired and motivated by the heartfelt messages you have sent. Keep sending them.” – JTA, 1-16-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Dana Goldstein: American schools more segregated today than when Martin Luther King Jr. was killed: American schools are more segregated by race and class today than they were on the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, 43 years ago. The average white child in America attends a school that is 77 percent white, and where just 32 percent of the student body lives in poverty. The average black child attends a school that is 59 percent poor but only 29 percent white. The typical Latino kid is similarly segregated; his school is 57 percent poor and 27 percent white.
    Overall, a third of all black and Latino children sit every day in classrooms that are 90 to 100 percent black and Latino…. – WaPo, 1-17-11
  • Imani Perry, an African-American studies professor at Princeton University: Nation ponders King in wake of Arizona shootings: “Dr. King’s message was about inclusion and the recognition of human dignity, of human rights and making sure that all of our voices are heard,” said Imani Perry, an African-American studies professor at Princeton University. “I hope people in Arizona, in particular, embrace that part of his message. The politics in Arizona recently have often seemed to revolve around excluding people.” – WaPo, 1-16-11
  • Morgan State University professor Jared Ball: Nation ponders King in wake of Arizona shootings: “So little of his real politics show up in these annual commemorations,” said Morgan State University professor Jared Ball. “Instead of actually reading what he wrote or listening to what he said, we pick catchphrases and throw his name around. We all feel for the tragic incident that took place in Arizona, but this is happening to people all over the world every day in one form or another.” – WaPo, 1-16-11
  • Rice University history professor Douglas Brinkley: Nation ponders King in wake of Arizona shootings: A national remembrance of the civil rights icon is an opportunity for the country to renew its commitment to King’s cause. Absent that, it’s unclear how his legacy would be remembered, said Rice University history professor Douglas Brinkley. “The holiday brought the freedom struggle into the main narrative,” Brinkley said. “The day is meant to be a moment of reflection against racism, poverty and war. It’s not just an African-American holiday. The idea of that day is to try to understand the experience of people who had to overcome racism but in the end are part and parcel of the American quilt.” “The struggle that the holiday itself has is to not just be a day off,” Brinkley said. “We have trouble with that. We have to constantly be vigilant not to let that happen.” – WaPo, 1-16-11
  • Martin Luther King’s legacy will be celebrated at forum: Martin Luther King Jr. will be celebrated at the annual “With Liberty and Justice for All” symposium Monday at 10 a.m. in Anderson Theatre, inside The Henry Ford. This year’s program will feature professor Martha S. Jones, a legal scholar and University of Michigan historian. Following her presentation will be a dramatic reading of an excerpt from the well-known 1978 Howard University address by Thurgood Marshall, who became the first African-American member of the U.S. Supreme Court, and a panel discussion with high school students from throughout Metro Detroit. This event is free; however, reservations are required. The Henry Ford is at 20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn. For more information, call (313) 982-6001 or to reserve a seat, visit thehenryford.org. – The Detroit News, 1-16-11
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