It’s April 3, 1968. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addresses a crowd of civil rights leaders and sanitation workers, calling for an economic boycott. With this in mind, he encourages a protest but that nothing, no matter what the situation may be,turns into violence. King changes tracks in his speech reminding the people that their number one goal is equality and that they are getting closer and closer to reaching the promised land. King said, “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. But I’m not concerned about that now. 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!” The next day, April 4, 1968, King was shot and killed at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee by James Earl Ray. It has been a long, hard fought battle for African Americans since Dr. King’s death, but we have had so many victories. 50 years later, that same fight for equality still exists and a new generation is rising up to take the stand.
The second of three children, Michael King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 to parents: Michael King Sr. and Alberta Williams King. King Jr. was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, where his father was the lead pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church. Later on, King Sr. adopted the name Martin Luther King Sr., honoring the German Protestant religious leader, Martin Luther. His son, Michael Jr., later changed his name as well to Martin Luther King Jr. (Bio.com). King attended Morehouse College and Boston University for his post secondary education. While working on his doctorate, Martin Luther King Jr. met an aspiring singer and musician named Coretta Scott. The two married in June of 1953 and had four children together: Yolanda, Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott and Bernice. By the time King was 25 years old, he had earned his Ph.D and was pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.
After Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man, King met with other civil rights leaders to plan a citywide bus boycott. He was chosen as the leader because he was young, well trained and very professional. In January 1957, King and sixty other ministers and civil rights activists founded the Southern Christian Leadership conference to “harness the moral authority and organizing power of black churches” (Bio.com). They also promote peaceful, non violent protests. This gave King not only his platform to stand on in the south, but also nationally as well. In 1963, King organized a march in downtown Birmingham, Alabama. Things quickly got ugly when the officers let loose fire hoses and dogs on the protestors. King along with many others were placed in jail because of this. While in jail, King said, “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community, which has constantly refused to negotiate, is forced to confront the issue.” King and others being jailed, while still standing their ground caused nationwide attention. In the fall of 1963, King delivered his famous, “I Have A Dream” speech in front of 200,000 people in Washington D.C. In this speech, King emphasized his belief that someday everyone would get a long, no matter what ethnic background they came from.
King organized many more marches and made many more public appearances but was growing weary because of the slow progress of civil rights in America. Even in his weariness, King went on to speak to the sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. The day after he gave his speech, King, who was standing over a balcony at the Lorraine Motel, was shot and killed by James Earl Ray. Ray, a former convict with a long rap sheet decided to flee to another country, thinking he would be considered a hero somewhere else. After two months of an international manhunt, Ray was later found, apprehended and sentenced to 99 years in prison.
Fifty years have passed by since Dr. King was killed; and the fight still goes on. Yes, we have had so many victories and yes, our ancestors paved the way so that our lives would be easier. However, because of the recent shootings, it makes me wonder if our country is reverting back into its old ways. When people say “Make America Great Again”, exactly what do they mean by that? While we don’t have to march for our voting rights and be banned from public places because of our race, we still have to protest. Today, we have the Black Lives Matter Movement, which gained national notoriety after huge amounts of Blue on Black shootings and killings. Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, many others and more recently Stephon Clark were all shot and killed for matters that could have been handled a different way. All of these people were unarmed, which is the main reason why many people were infuriated. So to say the least, the fight still goes on; but thanks to Dr. King, we will continue to move forward peacefully, in a non violent protest for towards equality.