History is indeed made up of significant events which shape our future and outstanding leaders who influence our destiny.
Martin Luther King's contributions to our history place him in this inimitable position. In his short life, Martin Luther King was instrumental in helping us realize and rectify those unspeakable flaws which were tarnishing the name of America. The events which took place in and around his life were earth shattering, for they represented an America which was hostile and quite different from America as we see it today.
Martin Luther King, Jr. catapulted to fame when he came to the assistance of Rosa Parks, the Montgomery, Alabama Black seamstress who refused to give up her seat on a segregated Montgomery bus to a White passenger. In those days American Blacks were confined to positions of second class citizenship by restrictive laws and customs. To break these laws would mean subjugation and humiliation by the police and the legal system. Beatings, imprisonment and sometimes death were waiting for those who defied the System.
Black Americans needed a Martin Luther King, but above all America needed him. The significant qualities of this special man cannot be underestimated nor taken for granted. Within a span of 13 years from 1955 to his death in 1968 he was able to expound, expose, and extricate America from many wrongs. His tactics of protest involved non-violent passive resistance to racial injustice. It was the right prescription for our country, and it was right on time. Hope in America was waning on the part of many Black Americans, but Martin Luther King, Jr. provided a candle along with a light. He also provided this nation with a road map so that all people could locate and share together in the abundance of this great democracy.
We honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. because he showed us the way to mend those broken fences and to move on in building this land rather than destroying it. He led campaign after campaign in the streets of America and on to the governor's mansion - even to the White House - in an effort to secure change. Today Black Americans have federal legislation which provides access and legal protection in the areas of public accommodations, housing, voting rights, schools, and transportation. These rights were not easily won, nor readily accepted, but the good will and conscience of an enormous spectrum of our society both Black and White said "Move On."
Thank you Dr. King for being the drum major who was able and ready to lead our nation to greater heights through love and peace.
Professor Melvin Sylvester, June 1998