Today many Americans are celebrating the national holiday honoring civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., who was born on January 15th, 1929. One of ten children, Dr. King grew up working as a sharecropper on his family farm in Atlanta, Georgia. He came to be known as the most famous leader of the American civil rights movement and is remembered for his promotion of non-violence and racial equality. He was known around the world as a peacemaker – and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and Presidential Medal of Freedom. Dr. King was assassinated in 1968.
Nick Charles is the editor-in-chief of a website geared toward the African-American community called AOL Black Voices (http://blackvoices.aol.com). He told English to Africa reporter Kim Lewis that he thought Dr. King would be happy about some of the progress made since his death, but disappointed by certain failures: “ I think he would be very pleased [with] the end of desegregation in public areas, schools, and some residential areas and the ascent of African Americans in...the corporate and legal world and all facets of American life.” But he says the continuing struggle of the poor and working class would likely trouble the late civil rights leader.
Charles notes that Dr. King’s emphasis on civil rights resonates far beyond Selma, Alabama and Washington, DC: “Along the Berlin Wall you were hearing [the civil rights anthem] “We Shall Overcome.” In Prague, Czechoslovakia, when people were looking for liberty and freedom, they tapped into those speeches and the ethos of the civil rights movement led by him.” Nick Charles says Dr. King’s words still apply today and will apply 20 years from today.
Charles notes that the future of The King Center in Atlanta is unclear. The institution is in dire need of financial support. Dr. King’s children are split between those who want the federal government to take it over, and those who believe that under federal management, the center would lose its position as an independent voice speaking out against political or economic injustices in the country.