Social Justice…Reflections on the Life of Martin Luther King Jr.
In 1957, MLK was appointed president of the newly formed Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Basing its principles on non-violence and civil disobedience, the group began to organize the movement with MLK exhorting “We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.” Living amidst racists and hatemongers who utilized whatever means to dehumanize their victims, MLK and SCLC efforts gained momentum. Television recorded and broadcast nightly egregious inequities. In May 1961, more than 1000 black and white student volunteers or “freedom riders” descended into the south testing new interstate travel laws, greeted by angry mobs. In April 1963, King was jailed in Birmingham, Alabama. While there he distributed his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” arguing that unjust laws must be opposed on a moral basis. One month later in the city, Americans and others throughout the world witnessed via nightly television news broadcasts, fire hoses and police dogs being used against black demonstrators. Who could forget these unbelievable atrocities perpetrated on peaceful marchers? And in, what proved to be a pivotal effort in March 1964, blacks marched for voting rights from Selma to ostensibly Birmingham, Alabama, only to be stopped at Pettus Bridge in Selma. Police used tear gas, clubs and whips; 50 people were hospitalized. Five months later Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Civil Rights Timeline/Infoplease.com