There are many words to describe Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Father, husband, pastor, leader, visionary, and beacon and martyr for civil rights. This became known as Dr. King’s legacy. He is known for his advocacy and promoting of civil rights for African Americans. He led many protests and marches for the civil rights movement and promoted forms of peaceful protest. He did not want to incite violence, as he felt that if one was to fight with violence then one would only breed further violence. A man of seemingly endless patience, he defused many violent situations and attitudes and turned the other cheek multiple times when he was wronged. There is a similar movement happening in today’s times. The Black Lives Matter movement has taken up the mantle of advocating and being activists for civil rights. They’ve led marches, held protest, and have become the face of civil rights much like Dr. King was. They take much the same approach as Dr. King, unafraid in the face of violence, they stand for the rights of African Americans everywhere and stand for their rights. Dr. King promoted nonviolent protest and peaceful resolutions .The Black Lives Matter movement lives up to the expectations of Dr. King and have shaped themselves into a movement that closely emulates and in some ways goes beyond the movement he himself led.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born January 15th, 1929. He did not become a civil rights activist and leader until 1955 however. During his time, he would become one of the faces for civil rights, and eventually become the premier leader of the entire movement, a position that is still his to this day. Famous is many of his deeds, speeches, and words of wisdom. A pacifist by nature, he felt that advancing civil rights through violence would only give way to resentment. Dr. King himself was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi when it came to his philosophy. He championed things such civil disobedience, the act of protesting by refusing to follow certain laws, as a form of protest. For example, walking into and sitting in at a diner that African American’s were not allowed into.
There are multiple events that have been immortalized that were done by Dr. King. One of the most prominent is his famous “I have a dream.” speech. Eventually, Dr. King was granted the honor of being “the youngest man to earn a Noble Peace Prize” and he turned over the entirety of the funds received to the civil rights movement. Dr. King’s speeches are among some of the most celebrated speeches in recent history. The march on Washington where he delivered it may be one of the biggest events in American history. The march had upwards of up to 250,000 people. Unfortunately, Dr. Kings work would be cut short when he was assassinated in 1968. Despite this, his legacy lives on in the form of another civil rights movement.
The Black Live Matter (BLM) movement was formed in response to police violence against African American’s and the lack of consequences on the part of the law officials. The original case that sparked the movement was the murder of Treyvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman. Since that moment, BLM has been going strong in order to fight for the rights and lives of African Americans. Much like Dr. King, they protest in various ways. They hold marches, give aid where it is needed, and stand up and spread the word of injustice against African American’s where they see it. However, they have a much broader scope to them, due perhaps to the technology we have in today’s modern society. BLM is on all social media platforms, and host events throughout the United States. Not only in the United States do they try to support African Americans. According to Patrisse Cullors, one of the founders of BLM, they created Black Lives Matter to be an “online community to help combat anti-Black racism across the globe.” They also embrace the current cultures of today, painting murals, and even pairing with gaming companies to spread their message.
Both movements had their own messages and goals at the time. Kings movement set out to not only end racism, but to try and bring the communities at the time together in a non-violent fashion. King wanted an end to bloodshed, wanted to create a world safe for his children and his children’s children. A world where no one was judged by the color of their skin, but the strength of their character. This would be his message and life goal, a movement in which he poured his life into and ultimately gave it up for. Kings hope for nonviolence would outlive him, as for seemingly years after his death, there were massive changes and reforms to laws and legislation regarding segregation and discrimination.
The message for Black Lives Matter however, while the same in principle, is different. “No More!” they cry out. BLM calls for an end to racially motivated violence against African Americans by law enforcement. They call for an end to the continued acquittals of law enforcement for the murders and discrimination against people of color. They are not afraid to shout this message from the streets. Spreading artwork, making sure that their online handle is garnering support and attention to the injustices done, they are unafraid to make sure they are heard within the confines of the law. According to an article written by Larry Buchanan for the New York Times reported that the Black Live Matter movement may just be the largest movement in United States history. An astonishing feat for the 8 year movement. With a turnout of half a million people per event throughout the country, it is well on it’s way to becoming a global phenomenon.
Hopefully, Black Lives Matter can continue to make Dr. King proud of the movement and legacy he has left behind. While it is heart-wrenching that such movements are still needed, hopefully sometime in the future, the needs for such movements will diminish and vanish entirely. While both movements have much the same goals in mind, an end to racism and discrimination, both have different focuses. Dr. King’s focus was on racism as a whole, and promoting peace through nonviolence. Black Lives Matter, both following Kings example and expanding on it, seek to put an end to police brutality and its grisly consequences.
!1 . Haberman, Fredrick W., ed. “The Nobel Peace Prize 1964.” NobelPrize.org. Accessed March 12, 2021. https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/1964/king/biographical/.
2. “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (U.S. National PARK SERVICE).” Accessed April 21, 2021. https://www.nps.gov/articles/march-on-washington.htm.
3. Cullors, Patrisse. “6 Years Strong.” Black Lives Matter, August 28, 2020. https://blacklivesmatter.com/six-years-strong/.
4. I Have a Dream Speech by Martin Luther King .JR Hd (Subtitled), 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vP4iY1TtS3s.
5. Buchanan, Larry, Quoctrung Bui, and Jugal K. Patel. “Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S. History.” The New York Times. The New York Times, July 3, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/07/03/us/george-floyd-protests-crowd-size.html
How to Cite: Best III, Clyde “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. & Black Lives Matter: Civil Rights From One Generation to the Next,” Digital History at USCA, 2021, dr-martin-luther-king-jr-amp-black-lives-matter-civil-rights-from-one-generation-to-the-next
Featured Image: Love & Unity by Sherry Lee, Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Love_%26_Unity_by_Sherry_Lee._.jpg (accessed April 22, 2021)
Further Reading and Media
“Featured Documents.” The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute. Stanford University, January 15, 1929. https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents.
Carey, Matthew. “Oscar-Shortlisted ‘MLK/FBI’ Untangles FBI’s Secret Campaign To ‘Discredit And Destroy’ Martin Luther King Jr.” Deadline. Deadline, February 18, 2021. https://deadline.com/2021/02/mlk-fbi-director-sam-pollard-ifc-films-documentary-interview-news-1234695979/.