Martin Luther King Day and Race in America

The Story:

Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929. By an act of Congress in 1983, this day is commemorated on the third Monday of each January, so the federal holiday can fall on any day from the 15th to the 21st. This year, the third Monday was the 18th, yesterday. The day is a fitting one to review the continuing significance of racial divisions and the possibility of interracial healing in the United States.

Background:

King was one of the founders and the first President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, created in 1957. Over the following decade King, and the SCLC, became critical in advancing several causes: starting with the desegregation of municipal busing systems, moving on to more broadly defined racial desegregation efforts, anti-poverty programs, and opposition to the war in Vietnam.

The Reverend King was shot and killed by James Earl Ray on Thursday, April 4, 1968. He was in Memphis Tennessee at that moment, supporting a strike by black sanitary public works employees.

The Thing to Know:

A recording of King’s last sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church was played at his funeral, on April 7. In that sermon, King said what he hoped would be said at his funeral, that is, that he had tried to “feed the hungry,” “clothe the naked,” “be right on the war question,” and “love and serve humanity.”

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