Martin Luther King, Jr. Legacy

Martin Luther King (1929-1968) was an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States. A national memorial is located in West Potomac Park in Washington D.C. It was opened to the public on August 22. King is the first African-American honored with a memorial on or near the National Mall. He

Martin Luther King (1929-1968) was an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States. A national memorial is located in West Potomac Park in Washington D.C. It was opened to the public on August 22. King is the first African-American honored with a memorial on or near the National Mall. He is only the fourth non-President to be memorialized in such a way.

Dr. King, to me, is a member of a small elite number of human beings who have inhabited this earth in its history, joining: Moses, Mahatma Ghandi, and Nelson Mandela.

Moses, according to Exodus, led the Jews from bondage in ancient Egypt to the “promised land.”

Ghandi, used nonviolent mass civil disobedience, leading India to independence from the British and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. King followed the non-violent civil disobedience principles of Ghandi in leading the civil rights movement in the United States. He was inspired by Ghandi and visited his birthplace in India in 1959.

Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist in the African National Congress that brought multi-racial democracy to South Africa in 1994. Following a 27-year imprisonment he became President of South Africa from 1994-1999 introducing policies aimed at combating poverty and inequality in South Africa.

Like Moses, Dr. King led African-Americans in their struggle to end racial segregation and racial discrimination through civil disobedience and other nonviolent means.

As did Ghandi, King led the United States non-violently to civil rights and freedom for African-Americans and the downtrodden poverty stricken populace of all races.

Like Mandela, King combatted poverty and inequality in the United States.

All four, Moses, Ghandi, Mandela and King, began from relatively humble beginnings. Moses began as an abandoned infant cast adrift in the Nile River of Egypt, later to become a shepherd for forty-years. Ghandi began a bit better, being the son of a diwan (a high official) of Porbander state in the Kathiawar Agency of British India. Mandela was the son of a chief of the town of Mvezo in South Africa. Dr. King was born in Atlanta. His father was the pastor of an Atlanta Church.

Moses never entered the “promised land” though he saw it from atop Pisgah up Mount Nebo. He died there.

Dr. King’s famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” his last speech given in Memphis, Tennessee the day before he was assassinated, prompts one to reflect on Moses and his inability to enter the “promised land.” In part, King said:

“And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers? Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t really matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. I don’t mind. 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. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

How prophetic those remarks given on April 3, 1968 were.

Much of King’s journey was broadcast on TV. I watched with repulsion, like thousands of others, the brutal activities of Bull Connor, the Commissioner of Public Safety in Birmingham, Alabama. Connor infamously directed the use of fire hoses, and police attack dogs against peaceful demonstrators, including children. Connor’s well publicized brutality did help, in large measure, to assure passage by the United States Congress of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Bigotry and discrimination still persists in the United States, I’m sad to say.

Jack Wood

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  • M.R. Heeman
    September 8, 2011, 7:18 am

    Dr. King’s legacy is a noble and just remembrance of his life and struggle to have every person known not for their skin color, but by the content of their character.

    It is unfortunate and a hijacking of his “dream” that political race pimps since – from Jesse Jackson to Al Sharpton to racial grievance groups like the NAACP’s main drive is to divide and demonize by race warfare. It seems an imperative to keep racism alive and dividing America in ways Dr. King would violently object to.

    People get attacked as racists today if innocent phrases like “black cloud” or “black cat” are used. There is today a concerted effort to tag anything at all which disagrees with black opinion makers as racist. Blacks in general have no desire to shed this political and social political lever. There seems nothing to ease racial tensions when it is more valuable to exacerbate them for political gain.

    Remember also, Dr. King was a Republican. Republicans passed the CRA-1964 FOR LBJ over the vicious and violent objections of Democrats and the filibuster speech (23 hrs, if memory serves) of Robert Byrd. Bull Connor was a devoted and politically involved Southern Democrat.

    It was not Republicans who sikked those fire hoses on blacks, lynched or told blacks to use their own restrooms and to eat at the back door. It was Democrats who did this!

    • Patricia Cunningham@M.R. Heeman
      September 21, 2011, 4:18 am

      M. R. Heeman, you will not find an african American who detests demonizing and dividing by race more than I do, however let me call your attention to a few things I take issue with. Dr. King not only was supportive of but the inspiration behind grievance groups. Those of us who want to eliminate racial divisions in society also recognize racism still exists among all groups. For you to say “blacks in general have no desire to shed this political and social political lever” is equally as damaging and counter-productive as everything you described. Playing the race card is offensive to all decent people…Comments like political race pimps implies there is no merit to any of the issues these individuals call attention to…Surely we both no better.

      • M.R. Heeman@Patricia Cunningham
        September 21, 2011, 8:03 am

        P.C., thank you for your response.

        My point is that, and it is the truth, these racial grievance groups and the main faces / voices of the African-American political-racial movement hijacked Dr. King’s life’s work by making it plain to modern society that it IS most definitely the skin color first and the content of character a very distant second. ALL this while “they” hide behind the “dream” of DR. King for a false veneer of respectability.

        I used part of a quote from J.C. Watts, the former African American Congressman from Oklahoma as these race players being “race-based poverty pimps”. Larry Elder, Thomas Sowell and Herman Cain have used very similar comments to describe people like Jackson, Sharpton and their ilk as intentional hinderances to a genuine easing of knee-jerk racial attack for political purposes.

        There is a front-of-the-line tactic of using quick-twitch knee-jerk namecalling of “racist” for political points used by these mentioned groups and a political lever of guilt by advocating race strife. Why should there be any desire or motivation for African American or other race-based grievance groups to discontinue this tactic of calling “whitey” racist for even the tiniest and miniscule picayune perceived offenses?

        To let you know, in American society I am a member of the most demonized, racially attacked, name-called, politically picked-on and societally assaulted groups in American society and have been all my life. “I” have intentionally been put at the back-of-the-line in racial preference programs and intentionally forgotten in the quota-hiring efforts of the last 50 years. “I” have been shunted aside for crimes and offenses I never committed and attacked for thoughts and intentions I never had or voiced.

        I am a middle-age caucasian male. I believe more in Dr. King’s “dream” of content-of-character before skin color MUCH more than those who intentionally continue the tactic of race warfare for rank political advantage – and unfortunately will for the foreseeable future, it seems.

        • Patricia Cunningham@M.R. Heeman
          September 21, 2011, 10:02 pm

          Thanks for responding and I hear exactly what you are saying. I continue to take issue with the terminology whether it is by you Thomas Sowell, J. C. Watt, Larry elder or whomever. Race-based poverty pimps is a phrase I find offensive regardless of who uses it. I spent 26 years as a counselor/social worker and have spent many years working with various civil rights organiations. You cannot condemn every group or member based on the actions and comments of the people the media focuses on. Many of us have done good work and changed the lives of the underserved, disenfranchised and forgotten. Often times the media makes reference to people as being leaders in the black community when in fact they are not perceived as such by the people. Watts, Cain, Elder and many more like them have been villified by the Black community for their conservative views when much of what they say is right on point. We (black folks included) have to #1 eliminate the name calling and labels. You and I know “race-based poverty pimp” sounds so much more divisive and racist coming from a white guy, #2 We have to find the courage to speak up and denounce race baiting, can’t you genuinely disagree with me without race being a factor ? To label the entire Tea Party “racist” is a disgrace…and being racist is a disgrace #3 (most importantly to me) we have to stop allowing whites to use race (supposedly on our behalf) to score political points. What offends me most of all, is that too many people have fought and died for our freedom, it is sacred. How dare anyone black or white, diminish that sacrifice for any political agenda. You’re right it was never Dr. King’s intention, but we are all so full of rage and so fed up with this racial BS that we can’t even be civil. When we talk about race without it seething fury. We have to get a grip and give each other the benefit of the doubt and recognize that both sides have some legitimate grievances. We just mmay agree more than we disagree….Good chatting with you.


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