Keep King's legacy of service alive
January 12, 2012
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- As the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday approaches, we are reminded of how successful, we as a nation and an Army can be, when we work harmoniously and respect one another. Dr. King was one of the greatest nonviolent leaders and most influential voices of change in modern times. He moved mountains in marching toward a dream that others had dismissed as impossible and unattainable.
During his 13 years at the helm of the American civil rights movement, Dr. King did more to end the practices of discrimination and segregation than what had been done collectively in the 300-plus years prior to him. It is worth revisiting some of his greatest achievements.
Here are some of his more important accomplishments, as listed by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, and chronicled with full details on its
-- In 1955, he led the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott
-- a campaign by the African-American population to force integration of the city's bus lines. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually ruled that racial segregation in transportation was unconstitutional.
-- In 1957, he became president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization that provided leadership for the civil rights movement. He would serve as head of the SCLC until his assassination in 1968.
-- In 1963, he led a nonviolent campaign in Birmingham, which had the reputation of being the "most segregated city in America." The police brutality that ensued led to a national outrage resulting in a push for civil rights legislation.
-- Later that same year, King was one of the forces behind the March for Jobs and Freedom, more commonly known as the "March on Washington," which attracted more than 250,000 people to the national mall. It was at this march that Dr. King delivered his immortal "I Have a Dream" speech. Time magazine named King its "Man of the Year."
-- In 1964, only 35 years old, King became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Also in 1964, partly due to the March on Washington, Congress passed the landmark Civil Rights Act, essentially outlawing racial segregation. It became illegal to discriminate against blacks or other minorities in hiring, public accommodations, education or transportation.
-- In 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, which eliminated the remaining barriers to voting for African-Americans, who in some locales had been almost completely disenfranchised.
-- Between 1965 and 1968, King shifted his focus toward economic justice and international peace.
On April 4, 1968 Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis. His body was returned to his hometown of Atlanta, where his funeral was attended by high-level leaders of all races and political stripes. Later that year, his widow, Coretta Scott King, officially founded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, which she dedicated to being a "living memorial" aimed at continuing Dr. King's work on important social ills around the world.
Although King has been gone for nearly 44 years, his spirit thrives among us. Each year, people of all backgrounds come together on the King holiday to serve their neighbors and communities. It is essential that we keep Dr. King's legacy of service alive and make it part of our everyday lives. Our Army Values provide that framework from which to emulate a true American and world hero.
Fort Jackson will observe the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday with a luncheon on Jan. 20 at the Solomon Center. The president of Allen University, Dr. Pamela M. Wilson, will be our guest speaker. The theme will be "Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Day On, Not a Day Off!
Army Strong and Victory Starts Here!