The Bucknellian

A Justified Celebration

Julie Spierer, Special Features Editor

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As many people know, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a social activist and minister who sought to achieve equal rights for all Americans, regardless of race. Amidst economic disadvantage and injustice, King engaged in peaceful protest with the aim of eradicating inequality.

A journey through history

King attended Morehouse College, studying theology under Dr. Benjamin Mays, the college’s president. After he graduated, he entered Crozer Theological Seminary, earning a bachelor’s degree in divinity. Although the school’s student body was predominantly white, members of King’s class elected him president.

Following his undergraduate career, King enrolled in a graduate program at Boston University where he earned his doctorate in systematic theology. In Boston, he met his wife Coretta Scott, and the couple moved to Montgomery, Ala. where King became the pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.

Near the beginning of the Kings’ time in Montgomery, the city became a hotbed for heated civil rights movements sparked by the Brown v. Board of Education decision. The Supreme Court declared the state-sanctioned segregation of public schools a violation of the 14th Amendment, thus making it unconstitutional.

Not long after, Rosa Parks, the secretary for the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white individual on a local Montgomery bus. A bus boycott began and lasted 381 days, and King was chosen as the protest leader.

In the months that followed, King developed into a source of inspiration, one who led organized and nonviolent resistances, advocating for equality and justice for all.

In 1957, King and some of his colleagues founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The group aimed to engage in peaceful protest in order to encourage racial equality. King acted as SCLC president. In 1963, he was arrested in Birmingham for engaging in sit-ins and marches that protested segregation. One of his most famous manifestos is his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” which was written as a response to a group of individuals who spoke out against his civil rights actions.

The March on Washington marks the most impactful moment in the history of American civil rights and the factor that ultimately pushed the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In Washington, D.C., King delivered one of the most famous speeches of all time: “I Have a Dream.” The speech propelled King’s recognition in the Civil Rights movement. King was named Time Magazine’s 1963 “Man of the Year,” and in 1964, he became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Unfortunately, in 1965, various white adversaries to King’s beliefs and movements protested in Selma, Ala. The rift grew larger between white segregationists and King, culminating in his assassination on April 4, 1968. King was shot as he stood on the balcony of his motel in Memphis, Tenn. where he was supporting a sanitation workers’ strike. His murderer was James Earl Ray, who was later sentenced to 99 years in prison.

In 1983, former U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating Martin Luther King Jr. Day, commemorating King’s profound work and dedication to creating a more equal society.

Student reflections

“Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King on Bucknell’s campus is important to appreciate the sacrifices that one man made for so many people who suffered unjust treatment and disparities. He inspires individuals to use their voice so that those who feel they cannot use their voice are not left unheard,” Emma Yost ’20 said.

“Martin Luther King week is important for a campus like Bucknell because it causes us to recognize the past injustices by citizens of America and to simultaneously seek to end the oppression we encounter every day,” Dabreon Davis-Darby ’19 said.

“In an ever-changing and fast-paced world, it is often easy to forget about, disregard, and be unaware of what is going on in society. MLK Week plays a critical role in one, raising cognizance about various issues in society, and two, empowering individuals to be catalysts for positive change. It is always important to stand up for what is right and ensure that as a society, we are moving forward—even if it is one step at a time. MLK once said, ‘There comes a time when silence is betrayal.’ Our lives do, as MLK has beautifully stated, begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter,” Cristian Carrillo ’19 said.

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The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University
A Justified Celebration