Dr. Martin Luther King is known for giving one of the most famous speeches in american history, yet it’s interesting how much of his other words and actions have been forgotten over the years.
This month marks 50 years since King’s assassination and tumultuous summer of 1968 that was to follow. Most people today when they think of King, probably think of his landmark “I Have A Dream” speech. They’re not wrong for thinking that, it’s just that King was so much more than just a speech.
You’re talking about a man who went to college at 15. A man who became one of the face of Civil Rights Movement while still in his mid-twenties. A Nobel Peace Prize winner. One of the greatest speakers this country has ever produced. A man went to prison numerous times fighting for what he (and millions of others) believed in.
These are the facts that most history text books and politicians and other figures will talk about when remembering King. The fact is however, this is an incomplete history. King wasn’t just some passive leader arguing for equality, but was active in the movement against white supremacy and income inequality.
This is a man who was arrested numerous times for simply pushing for equality. A man who admonished those who said black folks should “just wait a little longer or for a more convenient time” to argue for Civil Rights – as if you can put a timeline on a people’s freedom. While King is known for speaking out about segregation and inequality, his words and action weren’t just reserved for the south, as evidenced by the treatment he received when he lead a march against housing segregation in Chicago.
Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy today is one of reverence, if a bit softened to say the least. People talk as if the man died of old age warm in his bed instead of via a bullet to the neck at just 39-years-old. King is used against the protesters of today — specifically Black Lives Matter — as the pedestal in which people should look upon in how they should dress and behave when protesting literally for the lives. It’s ironic, the man who’s become synonymous with the fight for Civil Rights is now used to castigate those arguing for the same things 50 years later.
King wasn’t about being bigger than the people – he stood with them and marched forward with them. 50 years later, we have to continue moving forward if we truly want to honor the man’s legacy.