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Dr. Martin Luther King served as the catalyst and voice of America’s civil rights movement. Today, decades after his tragic death, his memory holds strong and he continues to be one of the most influential leaders of America. He was born in Atlanta on January 15, 1929, the second child of Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King. A highly motivated child, Martin Luther King, Jr. entered Morehouse College to study religion at age 15. He was a junior in college when he was ordained a minister and made the assistant pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where his father and grandfather before him had served as pastors.

In 1948, Martin Luther King, Jr. entered Crozier Theological Seminary in Chester, PA, where he began to seriously study the life and work of Mohandas K. Ghandi. "I came to see for the first time," he later wrote, "that the Christian doctrine of love, operating through the Ghandhian method of nonviolence, is one of the most potent weapons available to an oppressed people in the struggle for freedom."

While working toward his doctorate degree in Systematic Theology at Boston University, Martin Luther King, Jr. met and married Coretta Scott. In May, 1954, he became the new pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. The following year, on December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man. Her courage triggered the Montgomery Bus Boycott and thrust Dr. King to the forefront of a citywide protest against local segregation laws. He organized the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) and advised African-Americans to boycott the buses and picket businesses owned by white people. In 1956, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Alabama's bus segregation laws were unconstitutional and the victory established Dr. King as a national leader paving the way for desegregation in other areas, most notably in public school systems around the country.

In 1957, Dr. King helped organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to end segregation using non-violent protests. He led numerous demonstrations against discrimination including rallies, sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, voter registration drives, and the 1963 March on Washington where he delivered his famed "I Have A Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. These efforts received international acclaim and recognition when Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Dr. King, through his powerful and sincere speeches, renewed the hopes, determination and spirit of all people seeking to improve their own lives and advance the principles of humanity nationwide and around the world.

Dr. King's last protest took place on March 28, 1968 when he led a march in Memphis, TN, in support of striking sanitation workers. He was assassinated seven days later, on April 4, while standing on the balcony of his second-floor room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. Dr. King's death was mourned by millions of people around the world. In 1985, President Reagan signed a proclamation declaring the third Monday in January of each year a public holiday in honor of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His life and legacy will live on and the leaders of today can learn from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s philosophies, speeches and actions as a man who epitomized peace, harmony, determination, righteousness, justice and freedom for all people.

January 20th, 2014 is the 85th  anniversary of Dr. King's birth. Let us all remember Dr. King and carry forth the legacy and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through research, education and training principles, philosophy and methods of nonviolence.

 

Mrs. Coretta Scott King
Human Rights Activist and Leader

Coretta Scott King is one of the most influential women leaders in our world today. Prepared by her family, education, and personality for a life committed to social justice and peace, she entered the world stage in 1955 as wife of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and as a leading participant in the American Civil Rights Movement.

Her remarkable partnership with Dr. King resulted not only in four talented children, but in a life devoted to the highest values of human dignity in service to social change. Mrs. King has traveled throughout our nation and world speaking out on behalf of racial and economic justice, women's and children's rights, gay and lesbian dignity, religious freedom, the needs of the poor and homeless, full-employment, health care, educational opportunities, nuclear disarmament and ecological sanity.

In her distinguished and productive career, she has lent her support to democracy movements world-wide and served as a consultant to many world leaders, including Corazon Aquino, Kenneth Kaunda, and Nelson Mandela.

Born and raised in Marion, Alabama, Coretta Scott graduated valedictorian from Lincoln High School. She received a B.A. in music and education from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and then went on to study concert singing at Boston's New England Conservatory of Music, where she earned a degree in voice and violin. While in Boston she met Martin Luther King, Jr. who was then studying for his doctorate in systematic theology at Boston University. They were married on June 18, 1953, and in September 1954 took up residence in Montgomery, Alabama, with Coretta Scott King assuming the many functions of pastor's wife at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.

During Dr. King's career, Mrs. King devoted most of her time to raising their four children: Yolanda Denise (1955), Martin Luther, III (1957), Dexter Scott (1961), and Bernice Albertine (1963). From the earliest days, however, she balanced mothering and movement work, speaking before church, civic, college, fraternal and peace groups. She conceived and performed a series of favorably-reviewed Freedom Concerts which combined prose and poetry narration with musical selections and functioned as fundraisers for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the direct action organization of which Dr. King served as first president. In 1957, she and Dr. King journeyed to Ghana to mark that country's independence. In 1958, they spent a belated honeymoon in Mexico, where they observed first-hand the immense gulf between extreme wealth and extreme poverty. In 1959, Dr. and Mrs. King spent nearly a month in India on a pilgrimage to disciples and sites associated with Mahatma Gandhi. In 1964, she accompanied him to Oslo, Norway, where he received the Nobel Peace Prize. Even prior to her husband's public stand against the Vietnam War in 1967, Mrs. King functioned as liaison to peace and justice organizations, and as mediator to public officials on behalf of the unheard.

Since her husband's assassination in 1968, Mrs. King has devoted much of her energy and attention to developing programs and building the Atlanta-based Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change as a living memorial to her husband's life and dream. Situated in the Freedom Hall complex encircling Dr. King's tomb, The King Center is part of a 23-acre national historic park which includes his birth home, and which hosts over one million visitors a year. For 27 years (1968-1995), Mrs. King devoted her life to developing The King Center, the first institution built in memory of an African American leader. As founding President, Chair, and Chief Executive Officer, she dedicated herself to providing local, national and international programs that have trained tens of thousands of people in Dr. King's philosophy and methods; she guided the creation and housing of the largest archives of documents from the Civil Rights Movement; and, perhaps her greatest legacy after establishing The King Center itself, Mrs. King spearheaded the massive educational and lobbying campaign to establish Dr. King's birthday as a national holiday. In 1983, an act of Congress instituted the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission, which she chaired for its duration. And in January 1986, Mrs. King oversaw the first legal holiday in honor of her husband--a holiday which has come to be celebrated by millions of people world-wide and, in some form, in over 100 countries.

Coretta Scott King has carried the message of nonviolence and the dream of the beloved community to almost every corner of our nation and globe. She has led goodwill missions to many countries in Africa, Latin America, Europe and Asia. She has spoken at many of history's most massive peace and justice rallies. She served as a Women's Strike for Peace delegate to the seventeen-nation Disarmament Conference in Geneva, Switzerland in 1962. She is the first woman to deliver the class day address at Harvard, and the first woman to preach at a statutory service at St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

A life-long advocate of interracial coalitions, in 1974 Mrs. King formed a broad coalition of over 100 religious, labor, business, civil and women's rights organizations dedicated to a national policy of full employment and equal economic opportunity, as Co-Chair of the Full Employment Action Council. In 1983, she brought together more than 800 human rights organizations to form the Coalition of Conscience, sponsors of the 20th Anniversary March on Washington, until then the largest demonstration in our nation's capital. In 1987, she helped lead a national Mobilization Against Fear and Intimidation in Forsyth County, Georgia. In 1988, she re-convened the Coalition of Conscience for the 25th anniversary of the March on Washington. In preparation for the Reagan-Gorbachev talks, in 1988 she served as head of the U.S. delegation of Women for a Meaningful Summit in Athens, Greece; and in 1990, as the USSR was redefining itself, Mrs. King was co-convener of the Soviet-American Women's Summit in Washington, DC.

Always close to her family, in 1985 Mrs. King and three of her children were arrested at the South African embassy in Washington, DC, for protesting against apartheid. And, in 1995 she turned over leadership of the Center to her son, Dexter Scott King, who served as Chairman, President & CEO until January 2004. On that date, Mrs. King was named interim Chair and her eldest son Martin Luther King, III assumed the leadership position of President & CEO.

One of the most influential African-American leaders of our time, Mrs. King has received honorary doctorates from over 60 colleges and universities; has authored three books and a nationally-syndicated column; and has served on, and helped found, dozens of organizations, including the Black Leadership Forum, the National Black Coalition for Voter Participation, and the Black Leadership Roundtable.

She has dialogued with heads of state, including prime ministers and presidents; and she has put in time on picket lines with welfare rights mothers. She has met with great spiritual leaders, including Pope John Paul, the Dalai Lama, Dorothy Day, and Bishop Desmond Tutu. She has witnessed the historic handshake between Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Chairman Yassir Arafat at the signing of the Middle East Peace Accords. She has stood with Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg when he became South Africa's first democratically-elected president. A woman of wisdom, compassion and vision, Coretta Scott King has tried to make ours a better world and, in the process, has made history.

Mrs. King died in 2006 and is today interred alongside her husband in a memorial crypt in the reflecting pool of The King Center’s Freedom Hall Complex, visited by hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world year-round. The inscription on the crypt memorializing her life of service is from I Corinthians 13:13 –“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 


SIX PRINCIPLES OF NONVIOLENCE

  • PRINCIPLE ONE: Kingian Nonviolence is Not for Cowards.
    • Nonviolence has a complete disrespect for violence. It will not adopt violent tactics to reach its goal and will avoid violence in resolving conflicts and problems.
    • Dr. King stressed the importance of resisting violence in any form. He preferred and recommended nonviolence because it represented a more humane, noble and honorable method in the path to justice.
    • Nonviolence is affirmatively standing not only against what is wrong but also for what is right and just.
  • PRINCIPLE TWO: The Beloved Community is a World of Peace with Justice.
    • The Beloved Community is a framework for developing a future in which one can deal effectively with unjust conditions.
    • The "Ends and Means" is dealt with by this principle. You cannot achieve just ends by unjust means; you cannot use violent means to achieve peaceful ends.
  • PRINCIPLE THREE: Attack Injustice, Not Persons Doing Unjust Deeds.
    • Humor, anger and indignation about conditions were the focus of Dr. King's energy and attention. People are not the problem; what must be changed are the conditions under which some people operate.
    • Focusing anger and indignation on personalities is not only violent, but often produces more violence or apathy about the real problems and conditions.
  • PRINCIPLE FOUR: Accept Suffering Without Retaliation for the Sake of the Cause to Achieve a Goal.
    • Suffering is not to be confused with further harm to one's self or "self-victimization." Acceptance of harsh and unmerited punishment for a just cause helps the individual and the community grow in spiritual and humanitarian dimensions.
    • Willingness to endure hardship for a clearly defined just cause can have an impact on those committing acts of violence as well as on the larger community.
  • PRINCIPLE FIVE: Avoid Internal Violence of the Spirit as Well as External Physical Violence.
    • Our attitudes and commitment to practicing nonviolence, when faced with violence or issues, are communicated through our actions, which in turn are determined by our attitudes.
    • Body language as well as verbal expression communicate our real feelings and thoughts about a particular situation. Internal conflicts and violent feelings color these expressions.
  • PRINCIPLE SIX: The Universe is on the Side of Justice.
    • Society is oriented to a just sense of order in the universe. Nonviolence is in tune with this concept, and the movement must strike this chord in society.
    • Every person is opposed to wrong and unjust behavior in a particular situation. Given our understanding of the problem, we must never lose hope that human beings, even our opponents, are able to respond.

THE SIX STEPS OF NONVIOLENCE

  • STEP ONE: Information Gathering
    • Information gathering is not simply a fact-finding process, but must relate to a specific context, people and place.
    • Dr. King believed in listening and respecting the opinions of other people, whether they were poor people, uneducated or of a different color.
  • STEP TWO: Education
    • Nonviolence's use of all available communications and media to educate the public about the issue or injustice at hand.
    • Education can mean helping people to realize their ability to effect change and to act on solving major social problems.
    • Like holding a mirror up to the community, nonviolent approaches to education reveal the unique situation and reflect the need for a better and just image.
  • STEP THREE: Personal Commitment
    • Self-examination of all the ways that one may have helped to perpetuate a problem or unjust situation or where one has failed to use the nonviolent approach.
    • Developing spiritual and intellectual habits fosters nonviolence by dealing with one's own emotions or lack of understanding the truth.
  • STEP FOUR: Negotiation
    • Nonviolent negotiation does not humiliate or defeat your opponent.
    • To prepare for negotiation, Dr. King always stressed the importance of learning about your opponents: their religious traditions, personal traditions, personal or business histories, and educational background.
    • Nonviolence always allows your opponents to save face and "winning your opponent over" allows for joint responsibility in correcting the problem.
  • STEP FIVE: Direct Action
    • This step has two meanings: the first, to take responsibility for doing something about the situation and not waiting for someone else to do it; and the second, to take direct action when all attempts at education, personal commitment, and negotiation have failed to resolve the problem, and more dramatic measures are necessary.
  • STEP SIX: Reconciliation
    • The goal of nonviolence is a reconciled world so that we can move forward together to tackle the larger issues we confront as a community.
    • This step grows naturally out of Dr. King's belief that we focus not on persons but on conditions and if the issues remain clear throughout the process, reconciliation will facilitate the feeling of joint accomplishment and enhance acceptance of the change.

    For more information, please visit www.kingcenter.org

 
 
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