In honor of Martin Luther King Jr., several surrounding communities are planning events and celebrations next week.
While Boonville has nothing scheduled this year, Fayette and Columbia will hold events on Monday and Thursday.
On Monday, Jan. 15th at 6:30 p.m., there will be a candlelight walk at the Armory Sports Center at 701 East Ash in Columbia. Central Methodist University in Fayette will wait until the students return on Thursday, Jan. 18th for their event. There will be a MLK Luncheon between 11:45 a.m. and 1 p.m. on the fourth floor on the student center.
King was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, but his father changed both their names to Martin Luther in 1934. King’s journey “from nowhere to become one of the nation’s remarkable leaders of men” lasted just under 40 years.
Growing up in the segregated south taught King many things, not the least of which that he didn’t want his children growing up and enduring the same injustices that he grew up with.
King’s first oratory experience occurred on April 17, 1944, when he was a junior in high school. He and his teacher Mrs. Bradley had traveled to Dublin, Georgia, for an oratory contest and King had won with his presentation of “The Negro and the Constitution.”
King was ordained at Ebenezer Baptist Church on February 25, 1948, and received his Bachelor of Arts degree on June 8, 1948. A few months later he entered Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, where he began “a serious intellectual quest for a method to eliminate social evil.”
On June 18, 1953, King and Coretta Scott were joined in Holy Matrimony. Their union would be blessed with four children: Yolanda Denise (Yoki), November 17, 1955; Martin Luther, III, October 23, 1957; Dexter Scott, January 30, 1961; and Bernice Albertine (Bunny), March 28, 1963.
In the spring of 1954, King guest pastored at two different churches and accepted a calling from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church on April 14, 1954. Barely a month later, on May 1, the US Supreme Court handed down their unanimous decision in the case of Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka—segregation in public schools is unconstitutional.
The following year King got his big start as an up-and-coming leader for equal rights for black Americans. First he received his doctorate on June 5, 1955. Second, Rosa Parks, on December 1, was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger. Bail was posted by the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and trial was set for December 5.
King, a black college professor named Jo Ann Robinson, and others came together to stage a bus boycott on Parks’ behalf on the day of her trial. Parks was found guilty, but her lawyers appealed the case. That evening King, Robinson, and even more protestors came together and formally organized the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). They agreed that the bus boycott would continue until their three demands were met.
1. To guarantee that bus drivers would treat black passengers courteously
2. To seat passengers on a first-come, first-served basis, with black seating from the back of the bus toward the front and white seating from the front toward the back
3. To employ black drivers on predominately black routes
Almost a year later, on November 13, 1956, Parks won her case before the US Supreme Court, but it didn’t become effective until December 21. The MIA ended their boycott after 382 days. It was at this time that King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
The following February 18, King appeared on the cover of TIME Magazine with the caption of “from nowhere to become one of the nation’s remarkable leaders of men.”
Over the next few years King was all over the country as needed to lead the nonviolent fight against social injustice.
Other boycotts took place in the south and around the country. Students did sit-ins at white-only lunch counters.
In 1960, King was sentenced to four months hard labor. He was taken out in the middle of the night, shackled, driven hundreds of miles to Reidsville State Prison, locked in a cold cell infested with cockroaches and with no edible food. Three days later he was suddenly released. Coretta told him she had received a call from Senator John F. Kennedy, the Democratic presidential nominee, and he was going to investigate.
On August 28, 1963, King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at Lincoln Memorial. Less than three months later, on November 22, President Kennedy was assassinated in Texas. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson became President and in his first address to Congress he urged the passage of Kennedy’s civil rights bill. By mid-December the city council of Atlanta had rescinded “all ordinances which required the separation of persons because of race, color, or creed.”
On January 3, 1964, King appeared on the cover of TIME Magazine for a second time—this time as Time’s 1963 Man of the Year. In December of that year, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 1965, King was in Selma, Alabama, fighting for the right of blacks to vote. The people were going to march to the capital in Montgomery, but were stopped by state and local police. One national news crew was on hand to film a few seconds for the evening news, but when the unarmed marchers were brutally attacked the cameras went live, interrupting programs all over the country and around the world. Two weeks later, King led 30,000 people, under the protection of federal troops, from Selma to Montgomery.
King continued to fight for equality and social justice, but on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated by James Earl Ray.
King’s date of birthday became a national holiday in 1983.