By Jamie Lindsey
January 20, 2020 is the 34th anniversary of the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The holiday celebrates MLK Jr.’s dedication to the civil rights movement. The civil rights movement was an important moment in our country’s history with its goal to bring an end to discrimination and segregation as well as establishing equal rights for all citizens, regardless of their race.
Nearly a hundred years before the civil rights movement, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, giving all slaves their guaranteed right to freedom. Although all people were now free, it did not stop the rapid movement towards segregation and continued discrimination towards black Americans.
In the south, Jim Crow laws were established and the Supreme Court declared it was legal to have “separate but equal” facilities for black citizens. Although these facilities were separate, they were not equal. Once WWII started, black citizens were discouraged from joining the military, and it wasn’t until President Harry Truman issued an executive order in 1948 that ended discrimination in the military according to the website History.com.
In 1955, when Rosa Parks was arrested for sitting in the white section of a public bus, the moment sparked what would be the beginning of the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister at the time, led the Montgomery Improvement Society, which placed him on the front lines of the movement.
The importance of the civil rights movement is still pivotal in society today. The movement, led by MLK Jr. and other prominent members, gave black citizens the right to vote without restrictions, it abolished Jim Crow laws, it allowed black students to attend the same schools and have the same resources as white students, and eventually led to the Washington March in 1963 where MLK Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream…” speech.
The entire movement, including all the sit-ins, bus rides, marches, and speeches eventually led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on his hotel balcony in 1968. Just five days after his assassination, President Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act, which prevented discrimination race, sex, national origin, and religion in the housing sector.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a beacon of hope for millions of black Americans who suffered from the cruelty of discrimination. Too many lives were lost in vain because of the hatred of white citizens. Let us not forget MLK Jr. and everything he did for our society and our citizens. If it weren’t for his dedication, and the dedication of millions of others, the freedoms we have today would not be guaranteed to all Americans.