The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is an American and global hero. Each year we celebrate his accomplishments and the sacrifices he made on behalf of Black people, poor people, and marginalized people, not just in the United States but across the globe. In recent years Martin Luther King Day has been a call for the celebration to be a “day on” and not just a “day off.” However you spent the last MLK Day, let us try to continue his legacy throughout the rest of the month and even the year.
In many of my classes I teach King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and am blown away by the intellect and foresight of such a young man. I try to imagine the level of bravery King and his comrades had to face some of the most vile Americans throughout the South. I think of how worried King’s loved ones must have been each time he went on the road. I think of the dedication and bravery of so many people who supported King in the cities and towns he visited. He was determined to make America live up to her promise. He knew he would not likely live to see the day where America ever reached her potential, yet he persevered nonetheless.
This year I am going to try to take the teachings (and brilliant writings) of Dr. King with me on a more intimate level. So many people know King from his famous speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. However, King authored six books and several other works were published after his death as collections of his speeches and sermons.
If you are interested in some of King’s original works, you may have to hunt in used bookstores or online since not all are in circulation. However, his books are well worth it. His understanding and analysis of race, class, national and global politics are sadly still so relevant today. His original works are: “Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story” (1958), “The Measure of a Man” (1959), “Strength to Love” (1963), “Why We Can’t Wait” (1964), “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?” (1967), and “The Trumpet of Conscience” (1968).
In order to keep Dr King’s legacy alive, I am going to make a donation to Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church where he served as assistant pastor with his father until his death. No surprise, current Georgia Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock hails from the same church and continues King’s fight for equality.
So, how will you be a Drum Major for peace and change? How will you spend the remaining days in January upholding Dr. King’s mission? Whatever you choose, remember the words of Dr. King, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” and the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC.