“Early morning, April 4, a shot rings out in the Memphis sky. Free at last, they took your life, they could not take your pride!” -In the Name of Love, U2
(Although, it actually wasn't early morning and Bono has since changed the lyrics!)
As a history teacher, who no longer has a class to torment, I know I often times turn to you all. So just bear with me. I promise I’ll try to make this mini-lesson worth your while!!
As a student of history, I naturally have several topics/time periods I’m more passionate about. The first being Revolutionary American, the second being World War II, and finally the Civil Rights Movement and the stories and lessons that can be extracted from that period. And I’m pretty sure it would be impossible to discuss the Civil Rights Movement and not discuss Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I know we are all very busy and we don’t always make time to reflect on our past, however, it was my job for three wonderful years, so I still feel a little responsible to urge people to give pause on this day. To not only reflect on the life of Dr. King, but all those who came before and those who came after. The movement didn't just start with Dr. King, nor did it end with him, however his personal sacrifice is not something that should just be thought of as another day off from work and school.
But just remember this as you go about your day: For the majority of American history, black Americans have been treated as 2nd class citizens. I know that has become somewhat of a buzz word, but reminding all those that have been fortunate enough to not live during that time, I’m talking about separation of bathrooms, drinking fountains, restaurants, and schools. Beatings were common place, murders were just another story tucked away in the back pages of the newspaper and the rights afforded to us by our constitution only applied to those with white skin. This is not to mention the institution of slavery. This is not some faraway country or dictatorship I’m referring to, but rather The United States of America: the land of the free, democratic-state, where “all men are created equal”, and a majority of people consider themselves Christians!! This is our history, whether we like it or not. But the lives destroyed and lost along the way would all be in vain if we stopped teaching it and didn’t learn the lessons in which we as a nation have truly “learned the hard way”.
How would you respond to such treatment? How would you react to such violence? How would you explain to your child why he or she isn’t allowed to go to school with the other children? And the unspeakable….what would you do if your child was ever taken from you in the name of segregation or racism? For many people these weren’t just mere questions typed on a piece of paper to prove a point….it was their reality. For most of you, the answer may seem obvious, but Dr. Martin Luther King preached a different approach than most would assume. He thought to answer such injustices with violence was the easy answer. It was an easy, natural instinct for most, but also, one that would accomplish nothing but more heartache and resistance. Meeting violence with peace was indeed much harder and Dr. King understood that, although he also understood the approach was necessary in order to bring racial injustices to an end. Dr. King preached peace and persistence and took many of his lessons from Ghandi (the leader of India's independence movement). Through Dr. King, the movement gained momentum and worldwide attention. Peaceful gatherings at lunch counters were met with beatings and unified street marches were met with high powered water hoses and dogs. But still, Dr. King preached peace and remained the glue that held the non-violent movement together. Dr. King didn’t yell, he didn’t curse, point fingers, or even hold grudges. He spoke on what he believed was right in a time when speaking out meant not only putting your life on the line, but those of your family and friends. And on April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King gave the ultimate sacrifice. He was shot while standing on a hotel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee.
My hope is that the life of Dr. King continues to be taught and we continue to learn from his message. I want to leave you with a Ghandi quote, but very relevant to the day and the times in which we live. I have a necklace with this quote and I wear it often. I believe if we could all do our little part, the effect would be enormous:
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”- M. Ghandi
Lecture from Great Aunt Rose
3 hours ago