Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. And The Civil Rights Movement

Megan Ray  |  January 17, 2014

On Monday, Jan. 20, people across the nation will come together to commemorate an important figure in the history of civil rights in the U.S., Martin Luther King Jr. Although the iconic leader died more than 40 years ago, his legacy lives on through the message of equality and acceptance that he promoted. According to The King Center, more than a week of events have been planned to commemorate Dr. King, and 2014's theme will focus on the topic "Choose Nonviolence."

Although residents of senior living may personally remember aspects of the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. Day offers the perfect opportunity to review details about this crucial part of American history and the man who played such an important role in its development.

Background of The Civil Rights Movement
During the 1950s and '60s, social movements in the U.S. focused on issues of decades-long inequality toward African American citizens. Although the Emancipation Proclamation, issued during Abraham Lincoln's presidency at the end of the Civil War, had ended slavery, much of the disparity in rights and privileges afforded to white Americans still existed. Jim Crow laws segregated African Americans from using the same schools, restaurants and even bathrooms, and violent tactics were used to threaten them from speaking out. After nearly 100 years, unrest culminated in protests, social activism and legal action that came to be known as The Civil Rights Movement.

One of the leaders of the movement was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister and doctor of theology who called for peaceful protest in response to the inequality and violence he saw. Headed by Dr. King, members of the African-American community and fellow supporters held sit-ins and protests that focused on acting for progress instead of adding to existing tensions.

Speaking up for freedom
Perhaps the most memorable of Dr. King's role in The Civil Rights Movement occurred in August, 1963. During the March on Washington, more than 200,000 Americans took to the lawn of the National Mall in the country's capital and listened to Martin Luther King Jr. deliver the speech that lives on to this day. King spoke about equality, freedom and optimism in the future of America. The nation would serve as a welcoming home to all, regardless of race, belief or skin color.

"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.'"

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