Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, the day our nation has set aside to honor the works of the great civll rights leader. A minister and activist, King preached nonviolent civil disobedience as the catalyst to change despite violent opposition to the civil rights movement.
Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, long before he could see how far his movement has come. His famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 remains one of the most stirring, powerful speeches ever.
But Dr. King was also practical, and as early as 1961, was looking ahead to what came after the battle for desegregation was won. In a document from April 27, 1961, he wrote:
“And so, many bright young men and women, in their quiet moments, are asking themselves about life after college - especially after the big exciting hand-to-hand struggle with Jim Crow is done.
Almost all of them realize that the new frontier will be ‘integration’ rather than ‘desegregation’ and that this makes quite a difference. The latter means the removal of legal and customary barriers that have separated individuals and groups. These are mostly tangible and external such as laws and ‘For White Only’ signs. In a word, desegregation is the opening up of public facilities and serves to everyone.
On the other hand, integration is much more subtle and internal for it involves attitudes: the mutual acceptance of individuals and groups. Desegregation usually precedes integration, the former making the latter possible. But this is not automatic. Once the laws between them have been struck down, both Negroes and Whites will still need to win friends across the invisible, though nonetheless real, psychological color lines. Such a challenge will be more difficult and less glorious.”
Dr. King was confident that the next generation would be well-equipped to lead our nation down the path to integration. And while much progress has been made, there is more to be done. He was right to say it is “more difficult and less glorious,” but it’s the path of the righteous. It is the path to the destination Dr. King laid before us: “I want to be the white man’s brother, not his brother-in-law.”