On Monday, January 16, we honor the life, legacy, and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Known for his nonviolent philosophy and active resistance against racial injustice, poverty, and war, Dr. King was a leading advocate for social change during the American Civil Rights Movement in the late 1950’s and 60’s. Drawing upon his Christian faith and the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King shared a message of freedom, equality, justice, and love.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. played a significant role in the creation of two pivotal civil rights legislation, the Civil Rights Act, passed in 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Voting Rights Act, passed in the US Senate on May 26, 1965 following the violent attack upon peaceful protesters marching in support of the registration of Black voters from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama on March 7, 1965. The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Dr. King, Jr. in 1964 “for his non-violent struggle for civil rights for the Afro-American population”.
In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, Dr. King spoke on his belief that ‘the richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually’. Speaking on the incredible strides made in science and technology standing in contrast to what he referred to as ‘the poverty of the spirit’ and expressing itself in racial injustice, poverty, and war. While he acknowledged that significant strides had been made in ending racial injustice, noting the ending of segregation in 1954 and the passing of the Civil Rights Bill, he spoke on the problem being far from solved and must be addressed nonviolently. Dr. King states, “Nonviolence has also meant that my people in the agonizing struggles of recent years have taken suffering upon themselves instead of inflicting it on others. It has meant, as I said, that we are no longer afraid and cowed. But in some substantial degree it has meant that we do not want to instill fear in others or into the society of which we are a part. The movement does not seek to liberate Negroes at the expense of the humiliation and enslavement of whites. It seeks no victory over anyone. It seeks to liberate American society and to share in the self-liberation of all the people.”
In referencing a story plot found among the papers of a famous novelist who had passed away – ‘A widely separated family inherits a house in which they have to live together’ – Dr. King states, “This is the great new problem of mankind. We have inherited a big house, a great “world house” in which we have to live together – black and white, Easterners and Westerners, Gentiles and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Moslem and Hindu, a family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interests who, because we can never again live without each other, must learn, somehow, in this one big world, to live with each other.”
In partnership with the City of Greeley and the High Plains Library District, UNC and the Marcus Garvey Cultural Center will host an inaugural Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service on Monday, January 16. Dr. Janine Weaver-Douglas, Director for the Marcus Garvey Cultural Center, shared that Dr. King was a firm believer in community service and mutual aid, once saying that “everybody can be great because everybody can serve…You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”
Additional resources to commemorate MLK and the Civil Rights Movement:
- The King Center
- NPR: Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech
- Reading list for MLK Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement
- Celebrating Songs of protest and freedom from the Civil Rights era via Spotify
- Eventbrite: Conversations of King: The Promises of Democracy
- Eventbrite: A Dream Deferred: The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Attach the MLK Day design elements to your email signature and/or use it in your social media
For additional education and personal development related to diversity, equity and inclusion, the following resources are available: DEI Education and Resources, DEI & Antiracism Resources from the UNC Libraries, the Education Equity Toolkit from the Colorado Department of Higher Education, and the UNITE workshops for faculty, staff, and students.