Today (20th January, 2014) is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This is an annual American federal holiday commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and falls on the Monday following his actual birthday (15th January).
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) was a social activist, pastor, humanitarian, and leader of the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. His advancement of civil rights, his leadership and engagement in the movement, and his advocacy and practise of nonviolent resistance earned him respect and acclaim. He organised and took part in various protests, boycotts, and marches to advance the cause. His commitment to nonviolence strikingly extended to cases where civil rights activists faced brutal responses from police. In 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolence. He was assassinated in 1968. After his death, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established as a U.S. federal holiday in 1986.
King’s legacy is sometimes treated with ambivalence by libertarians. This is, at best, unfortunate. It is true that he advocated some specific policies that were less than ideal (notably a lot of what was entailed in the Poor People’s Campaign). However, this pales into insignificance compared to the huge achievements made by King, the scale of the injustice he was fighting, his evident moral qualities as an individual, and the merits, legitimacy, and humanity, of the main demands of the civil rights movement.
Ultimately, Martin Luther King was fighting for America to be America, and for the principles of the Constitution and the Founding Fathers to be upheld and applied consistency. His dream was a society where every individual was judged on their own character, and not on arbitrary discrimination and hate. His ability to love his enemies, and to rise above coercion and violence and not respond in kind, should be remembered as being the exceptional ideal and practise that it was.
This is a video of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech from the March on Washington, August 28th 1963. The speech is now an iconic symbol of the civil rights movement, its aims, and what it achieved.