Saturday, January 15, 2005

Martin Luther King, Jr.

On this date in 1929, Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Named at birth Michael Luther King for his father, his name was legally changed when he was a child (along with his father's) to honor the leader of the Protestant Reformation.

Of his leading role in the American Civil Rights Movement, King said, "History has thrust me into this position. It would be both immoral and a sign of ingratitude if I did not face my moral responsibility to do what I can in this struggle."

Contrary to the expectations of many, both black and white, that such a strategy would not succeed, King led a non-violent struggle. Addressing himself to those responsible for racial injustice, he said, "We will match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. We will not hate you, but we cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws. . . . We will soon wear you down by our capacity to suffer. And in winning our freedom we will so appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process."

Of his belief in the morality of non-violent resistance, King said, "I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law."

In 1964, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Four years later, on April 4, 1968, he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.

On Wednesday, January 19, at 10:00 a.m., Martin Luther King III, one of four children of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, will be speaking at Pepperdine.