We still read the history, watch the films and listen to the voices. Some of us were children, confused and frightened by what we witnessed. Some of us were born years afterwards and can only see those days through the lens of what we’ve been taught.
The Civil Rights Movement was a dark, violent passage for the United States, and it was an explosion of hope that illuminated the entire country. Of all the faces that make up the canvas of this extraordinary time, one stands out.
Today, we celebrate his birthday.
The legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. is summed up in countless books that recount his life. It is discussed at university symposiums and around dinner tables. He was the leader of a movement that ripped the country apart, and he was a minister who preached nonviolence. His death was violent, but he was a man of peace.
Characterizations and pronouncements on his importance are as endless as the diverging opinions on his character. We all know man is a complicated animal, capable of greatness and fault. Separating the legacy from the man who was Martin Luther King, Jr. is impossible, a definitive analysis of either is even more futile.
Reverend King’s words are in our history books; we hear them in recordings and see their impact in film. His legacy may be what we no longer hear and what we no longer see.
His dream hasn’t entirely come true, but the hate and violence that he fought against are now a smaller piece of the terrible fabric that man can weave. The equality and acceptance that he fought for are now a larger part of all our lives.
Reverend King’s legacy is his dream, and our country is better for living it every day.