Before his assassination on April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. performed the arduous work of ensuring civil rights in multiple ways.
He organized marches, including the pivotal 54-mile voting rights march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery in 1965. He led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), who spearheaded a student sit-in movement in 1960 and the Freedom Rides in 1961. He crafted the famous “Letter From A Birmingham Jail” in 1963. He delivered the “I Have A Dream” speech also in 1963. His words, enhanced by courage, conviction and Black oratory traditions, were like colorful strokes painting a better world for people of color.
When King was killed at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee in April 1968, his death sent shock waves throughout the nation. Opponents of King thought his life’s work would be cut short, but they had underestimated his power. They couldn’t stop King’s memory and words from living on and inspiring others.
Here are some of the ways that MLK is inspiring activists, public figures and more folks, young and older, today:
Post-King: Where Do We Go From Here?
Roland Martin reported live from the National Civil Rights Museum, formerly the Lorraine Motel, in Memphis for TV One’s #MLK50 Day of Remembrance event on Wednesday.
Martin joined the museum and University of Memphis Law School and covered their two-day symposium that kicked off on Monday. The symposium held a discussion about the issues that King addressed in his final book, Where Do We Go From Here?, including chronic poverty in the African-American community.
King was an outspoken advocate for the rights of folks of color. On his 50th anniversary, people have united to end racism, committing to finishing the work that he began.
Eric Holder Talks At #MLK50
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder addressed the crowd at the National Civil Rights Museum symposium with a speech on Monday that affirmed King’s great work. Holder was inspired by King to help unite Americans “in the name of tolerance, nonviolence, compassion, love and justice.”
“Let’s pledge our best efforts to protect the advances that we have inherited and make real the legacy that has been entrusted to each of us,” Holder said, the Commercial Appeal reported. “That is our charge, and this is our moment.”
Obama Sits Down With John Lewis
Barack Obama‘s Foundation published an important roundtable discussion with U.S. Democratic Rep (GA) and civil rights leader John Lewis for My Brother’s Keeper Alliance. Obama and Lewis were joined by students from Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Washington, D.C. and talked about how King’s mission is still relevant today.
Parkland Students Fight For Gun Control
Leading up to King’s assassination anniversary, Mei-Ling Ho-Shing, a 17-year-old Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student in Parkland, Florida drew strength for fighting for gun reform from King, USA Today reported.
“Believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality,”Ho-Shing said at King’s Memorial at the nation’s capitol in Washington, D.C. before the March For Our Lives nationwide protest against gun violence. “This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”
Protests Against Police Shootings
King’s son Martin Luther King III delivered encouraging words Tuesday to Black Lives Matter activists fighting for justice for Stephon Clark.
“I can’t say enough about my brothers and sisters of Black Lives Matter. Just a couple of days ago in Sacramento, we saw a young man gunned down holding a cellphone,” King said on the eve of King’s assassination anniversary, according to KCRA. “Justice must be done somehow, someway, someday and really right now.”
Vying For Voting Rights
Advocates for voting rights have taken cues from King in recent months. Several activists gathered at the U.S. Supreme Court for a rally to oppose voting rolls purges in January, Politico reported. One of King’s central motivations for the March from Selma was to fight for voting rights.