Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday held on the third Monday of January. It celebrates the life and achievements of King, an influential American civil rights leader.
In 1957 he was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization formed to provide new leadership for the now burgeoning civil rights movement. The ideals for this organization he took from Christianity; its operational techniques from Gandhi.
Between 1957 and 1968, King led a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama, that caught the attention of the entire world, providing what he called a coalition of conscience and inspiring his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” a manifesto of the Negro revolution; he planned the drives in Alabama for the registration of Negroes as voters; he directed the peaceful march on Washington, D.C., of 250,000 people to whom he delivered his address, “I Have a Dream;” he conferred with President John F. Kennedy and campaigned for President Lyndon B. Johnson; he was arrested upwards of 20 times and assaulted at least four times; he was awarded five honorary degrees; was named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1963; and became not only the symbolic leader of American blacks but also a world figure.
At the age of 35, Martin Luther King Jr. was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.
On the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers of that city, King was assassinated.
In the 11-year period between 1957 and 1968, King traveled more than six million miles and spoke more than 2,500 hundred times, appearing wherever there was injustice, protest, and action; and meanwhile he wrote five books as well as numerous articles. Here are just some of the topics he addressed in his sermons, speeches and interviews:
A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.
A lie cannot live.
A man can’t ride your back unless it’s bent.
A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.
A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan.
A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.
A right delayed is a right denied.
A riot is the language of the unheard.
All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.
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