Martin Luther King Jr. was born Jan. 15, 1929. In 1983, Republican President Ronald Reagan signed the bill to make the third Monday in January a holiday in honor of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister like his father and grandfather. He was pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery and Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. He formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1964.
On April 16, 1963, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote: “As the Apostle Paul carried the gospel of Jesus Christ … so am I compelled to carry the gospel. … ”
King continued: “One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage.”
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, were influenced by the German church leader Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who resisted Hitler’s National Socialist Workers’ Party. Bonhoeffer was himself influenced by the Black preacher, Adam Clayton Powell Sr., pastor of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church, once the largest Protestant church in America.
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was also influenced by Henry David Thoreau, who wrote in his book, “In Civil Disobedience” (1849): “That government is best which governs least”
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. attended Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, 1942-44. Booker T. Washington founded Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, and wrote in “Up From Slavery” (1901): “I resolved that I would permit no man, no matter what his color might be, to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him. With God’s help, I believe that I have completely rid myself of any ill feeling toward the Southern white man for any wrong that he may have inflicted upon my race. … I pity from the bottom of my heart any individual who is so unfortunate as to get into the habit of holding race prejudice.”
Booker T. Washington stated: “In the sight of God there is no color line, and we want to cultivate a spirit that will make us forget that there is such a line anyway. … I have always had the greatest respect for the work of the Salvation Army especially because I have noted that it draws no color line in religion.”
Booker T. Washington wrote in “Up From Slavery” (1901): “There is a class of race problem solvers who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. … Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances because they do not want to lose their jobs. … They don’t want the patient to get well. … Great men cultivate love … only little men cherish a spirit of hatred.”
A professor at Tuskegee was the world renown George Washington Carver, who wrote to Robert Johnson, March 24, 1925: “Thank God I love humanity; complexion doesn’t interest me one single bit.”
George W. Carver wrote to YMCA official Jack Boyd in Denver, March 1, 1927: “Keep your hand in that of the Master, walk daily by His side, so that you may lead others into the realms of true happiness, where a religion of hate, (which poisons both body and soul) will be unknown, having in its place the ‘Golden Rule’ way, which is the ‘Jesus Way’ of life, will reign supreme.”
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was influenced by the non-violent methods of India’s Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi wrote in his autobiography of an incident on a ship with 800 passengers traveling from India to the Natal Province of South Africa. When some passengers learned that Gandhi was aboard, they grew furious. As Gandhi was disembarking, they punched him, kicked him, and threw stones at him, but he refused to retaliate and kept walking. He was finally rescued when the wife of the town’s police superintendent opened her parasol and stood between Gandhi and the mob.
Gandhi wrote: “I hope God will give me the courage and the sense to forgive them and to refrain from bringing them to law. I have no anger against them. I am only sorry for their ignorance and their narrowness. I know that they sincerely believe that what they are doing today is right and proper. I have no reason therefore to be angry with them.”
On March 6, 1984, President Ronald Reagan remarked at the annual convention of the National Association of Evangelicals, meeting at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Columbus, Ohio: “During the civil rights struggles of the fifties and early sixties, millions worked for equality in the name of their Creator. Civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King based all their efforts on the claim that black or white, each of us is a child of God. And they stirred our nation to the very depths of its soul.”
On Jan. 20, 1997, Rev. Billy Graham delivered the invocation just prior to the second inauguration of President Bill Clinton, stating: “Oh, Lord, help us to be reconciled first to you and secondly to each other. May Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream finally come true for all of us. Help us to learn our courtesy to our fellow countrymen, that comes from the one who taught us that ‘whatever you want me to do to you, do also to them.’”
In proclaiming 1990 the International Year of Bible Reading, President George H.W. Bush stated: “The historic speeches of Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. provide compelling evidence of the role Scripture played in shaping the struggle against slavery and discrimination.”
On Feb. 16, 2002, Dr. James Dobson addressed 3,500 attendees at the National Religious Broadcaster’s convention: “Those of you who do feel that the church has no responsibility in the cultural area. … Suppose it were … 1963, and Martin Luther King is sitting in a Birmingham jail and he is released. And he goes to a church, yes, a church. And from that church, he comes out into the streets of Birmingham and marches for civil rights. Do you oppose that? Is that a violation of the separation of church and state?”
In his address at Montgomery, Alabama, Dec. 31, 1955, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. declared: “If you will protest courageously, and yet with dignity and Christian love, when the history books are written in future generations, the historians will have to pause and say, ‘There lived a great people – a black people – who injected new meaning and dignity into the veins of civilization.’”
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said Aug. 28, 1963: “Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. … In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.”
On April 16, 1963, Rev. King wrote: “I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. … I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency. … The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best-known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. … This movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible ‘devil.’ I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the ‘do-nothingism’ of the complacent nor the hatred of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and non-violent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of non-violence became an integral part of our struggle.”
Rev. King proclaimed Aug. 28, 1963: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.’ I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. … 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. … I have a dream … where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.”
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