Martin Luther King Jr. is regarded as one of the most prolific civil rights leaders in modern history. His strides toward an equal and tolerant society was met with great resistance. In spite of that, our nation celebrates his contribution to America on the third Monday in January. On August 28th, 2011, African-Americans will have another reason to celebrate the man who delivered the profound “I Have A Dream” speech. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial monument will be dedicated on the 48th anniversary of the aforementioned speech. This the first monument of an African-American on the National Mall. Though Dr. King’s life has been recounted by various authors and sites, The Urban Daily and I (@JaySpeakEasy) wanted to give you some information from our perspective. We deliver five things you didn’t know about Martin Luther King Jr.
His trip to India deepened his commitment to non-violent resistance.
In 1959, Dr. King took a trip to the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi. After studying Gandhi’s teachings, king tried to figure out a way to apply Gandhi’s peaceful approach to righting societal wrongs in America. On his last day in India, Martin Luther King Jr. communicated, “Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of non-violent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity. Mahatma Gandhi embodied in his life certain universal principles that are inherent in the moral structure of the universe, and these principles are as inescapable as the laws of gravity.”
Civil Rights leader and educator, Howard Thurman, was an early mentor to King.
Martin Luther King Sr. and Howard Thurman were classmates at Morehouse College. Once Martin Luther king Jr. was born, Thurman would talk to the young man and his friends about making a difference in their community. Their relationship continued for many years. While King studied at Boston University, he would visit Thurman seeking advice. Howard Thurman scholar, Walter Fluker, commented, “I don’t believe there would be a Martin Luther King Jr. without a Howard Thurman.”
King caught heat for his ties to Bayard Rustin.
Bayard Rustin was an early civil rights leader. He counseled and advised King during the beginning of his activism career. Rustin was also an organizer of The March On Washington in 1963. Rustin was an openly gay man who supported democratic socialism and had ties to the Communist party. For that, African-American leaders demanded King distance himself from Rustin for fear his affiliations to unsavory organizations would damage the credibility of the SCLC.
King supported the idea of reparations, but for all disadvantaged people.
Martin thought African-Americans as well as poor Americans should be compensated for historical wrongs. King wasn’t seeking complete restitution of wages African-Americans lost during slavery. He deemed that virtually impossible. However, he proposed a government compensatory program of 50 billion dollars to paid over ten years to all disadvantaged groups. In a 1965 interview with Playboy, King elaborated on his theory, “The money spent would be more than amply justified by the benefits that would accrue to the nation through a spectacular decline in school dropouts, family breakups, crime rates, rioting, and other social evils.”
Martin Luther King Jr. was criticized for championing integration.
Stokely Carmichael considered King’s pleas for integration an insult to a unique African-American culture. Omali Yeshitela urged African-Americans to remember the history of violent European colonization and how their power wasn’t secured through integration, but by force and violence. King argued his vision for change was more revolutionary than a polite reformation. He cited the flaws of “racism, poverty, militarism, and materialism,” and stated “reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced.”