Another year has passed and Americans once again honor the accomplishments for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Whether through his famed word, most notably the 1963’s “I have a Dream” speech or local community functions, we see a rose-colored version of a forgotten struggle that has lived on through a generational cycle.
People remember Dr. King’s words, but don’t realize it was those same words that people hated him for. The same ones that started a movement in this country to fight for equality in the south we live in today. But it was those same words that made King a martyr. An uncomfortable truth we live with today.
We as a society are only interested in using Dr. King’s messages when it fits a social post or on this day every year to tell others how much we could idolize his actions. If we stood up the same way King did, would there even need to be an example set? If he wasn’t tragically killed standing up for sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn., would his same principles be a foundation for today’s movement?
Not many recall Dr. King’s popularity at the time of his death near an all-time low. Republican members of the U.S. Congress openly called him “treasonous” for speaking out against lawmakers and their handling of the Vietnam War. Many people wrote editorial pieces in their local newspapers calling for the President to jail King, or in some cases punish him by death. Some members of the press attacked his ideals directly and sought to destroy his character even after he was named the winner of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.
Here’s an excerpt from an article called ‘Man of Peace’ published in the Charlotte Observer on Oct. 19, 1964.
“The essence of Martin Luther King’s appeal is contained in the speech he made during last year’s March on Washington.
“I have a dream,” the (Black) leader declaimed at the Lincoln Memorial. “It is a dream deeply rooted in the American Dream. . . I have a dream that one day in the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood”
Dr. King is a dreamer, a bad manager but surely not an impractical visionary. He understood long before other leaders of this race that the concept of nonviolence could unite the civil rights forces and make a powerful movement out of what had been mere scattered protests.
The realization was, for Dr. King, more than an intellectual exercise. He put it into effect in the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955. When the first sit-ins occurred four years later, Dr. King was ready to assume leadership of the new movement.
The leadership has not been faultless. There have been times, notably in the ugly confrontation in Albany, Ga., when Dr. King’s actions have not measured up to his words. But for the most part, he has represented the best of the (Black) leadership in the movement– the southern preacher- leader who marches in nonviolent protests at the side of his people. It is entirely possible that without the leadership of men like Dr. King , wholesale bloodshed might have ensued.
That is what Dr. King meant when he said that he could accept the Nobel Peace Prize only as a representative of the many (blacks) and whites who have followed the path of nonviolence to improve minority rights. As a leader, he is a logical choice for the honor. In their name, he has tried to win his dream through peace.”
What would Dr. King think about today’s protests?
Would he believe they’re justified or is there a deeper cause he would fight for? Does he play the role of being a peacekeeper to combat the destruction of property and looting of businesses? We know where the Reverend would stand on a lot of issues because they’re similar to those in the 1960’s. Although, what has been lost in translation is the true meaning of Dr. King’s words.