Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American pastor (preacher, minister, church leader) in the 1950s and 1960s. He was also a famous speaker and a political activist. An activist is someone who works very hard to change something in society. Dr. King worked very hard for civil rights (the rights of all U.S. citizens), especially equal rights for black and white Americans.
When Dr. King was a boy, schools, churches, restaurants, toilets, and even water fountains were segregated. That means that white people and non-white people were separated. This was the law until 1954, when the Supreme Court decided that it wasn’t right or fair to separate the races. A lot of people were very unhappy with the court’s decision to integrate (mix together) black and white people, but Martin Luther King believed that different races could live together and share peace in society.
Dr. King believed very strongly that people should protest (say they disagree or don’t like something) peacefully, without violence. He said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” That means we cannot end darkness with more darkness. We need to turn on the lights. And we cannot end hate with more hate. We need to give love. He also said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” That means it’s easier to love than to hate. If I hate someone, it causes too much stress, it hurts me. Dr. King wanted people to change the world, and he believed that love and education were the best ways to do it.
Martin Luther King’s most famous speech is the “I Have a Dream” speech. He gave it in Washington, DC on August 28, 1963. You can click here to read and listen to the whole speech. In it, he says, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Dr. King’s dream was that all people would be judged equally, based on who they are on the inside, not what they look like on the outside.
On April 4, 1968, Dr. King was assassinated (killed) in Memphis, Tennessee, but his dream of peace and equality continued. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan created an official holiday to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. His birthday is on January 15, but we celebrate his life each year on the third Monday of January.
When President Reagan created Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the band U2 wrote a song called “MLK.” The words of the song are simple:
Sleep. Sleep tonight, and may your dreams be realized.
If the thunder-cloud passes rain, so let it rain, rain down on him.
So let it be.
Wake Tech’s ESL classes will be CLOSED on Monday, January 19 for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. While you are at home, visit this website for more information about Dr. King.