By Eliana Mamo ‘25
Born January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia to a comfortable middle class family, Martin Luther King experienced segregation and discrimination, which caused him to play a major role in the civil rights movement from the mid-1950s to early 1968. King’s parents were college educated, and his father and grandfather were both Baptist preachers. His family lived on “Auburn Avenue,” which was home to some of the country’s largest and most prosperous Black businesses and churches at the time. This secure upbringing did not shield King from the horrors of racism–from classmates refusing to play with him because of the color of his skin to police using dogs and firehoses in his demonstrations during his campaign. Summers spent on a tobacco farm in Connecticut helped King realize how bad segregation was in the South, as he saw peaceful relations between Blacks and Whites. King studied medicine and law at Morehouse and later on in his life got more involved with the civil rights movement up until his assassination.
MLK’s involvement was key to ending legal segregation of African Americans in the South. He used his role as Head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to encourage nonviolent tactics to combat the racism many were fed up with. He led the famous March on Washington where he gave his “I Have A Dream” speech. He encouraged America to not “take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism,” but to constantly fight for change on “the high plane of dignity and discipline.” Following Rosa Parks’ stance against segregation on public transportation, King helped lead the Montgomery Bus Boycotts in which African Americans refused to ride city buses for an entire year, resulting in the Supreme Court ruling segregation on public buses as unconstitutional. For all of his work, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
As we honor King on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, may we recognize the ongoing fight to end segregation and inequality, and may we strive to create a world that MLK would look upon and be proud of.