In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a better person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.” Every year we celebrate the life and work of the great late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He is a person who will always be remembered for his courage, persistence, bravery, compassion, and so much more. He worked tirelessly to help change the life of Black folks so that we could have equal rights and be treated like the human beings we are. But are we truly equal?
The Reconstruction Era occurred from 1865-1877 after the Civil War and was an attempt to address the many inequities that Blacks had to face. It was the chance to “reintegrate the Southern states from the confederacy and four million newly-freed people in the United States.” Even though many slaves were freed, there were still many slaves living in the south under Black codes, which kept the slaves enslaved and continued to use them as a labor source. In fact, many slaves in the south didn’t know they were free until sometime later. The south did not want to recognize that the slavery was abolished. Slavery was a money maker for many Whites, and a lot of them loved the power they had over the enslaved.
It was noted that, “During Radical Reconstruction, which began with the passage of the Reconstruction Act of 1867, newly enfranchised Black people gained a voice in government for the first time in American history, winning election to southern state legislatures and even to the U.S. Congress. “This was a positive moment for Blacks and the entire nation. A moment that consisted of steps in the right direction towards equality. However, some White people couldn’t handle it as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) made it a priority to rip to shreds the progress Blacks made through violence and instilling fear into the souls of many. It only took “less than a decade” for this deconstruction.
Some progress was made through the Civil Rights Bill of 1866 that declared all people born in the United States to be citizens regardless of color and those who were enslaved, and many years later, President Lyndon Johnson would sign The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which “prohibited discrimination in public places, provided for the integration of schools and other public facilities, and made employment discrimination illegal.”
The Civil Rights Movement took place in 1954 to 1968, and one of the major events that occurred during that time is the historic Brown v. The Board of Education, which desegregated schools all over the nation and took down the “separate but equal doctrine.” It was the work of Dr. King, Thurgood Marshall, and many others that have paved the way for Blacks to have the rights that we do now. The Civil Rights Movement also served as a foundation for other oppressed groups to push for equality such as The Women’s Rights Movement and The LGTB Movement, and even Black Lives Matter Movement just to name a few.
With everything going on in the world, what is the state of our culture now? What would Dr. King say about our race, our world? How would he feel about his legacy and if we are living “the dream he wanted.” Do you feel equality exists for all? We may not have to sit in restaurants or refuse to give up our seat on a bus, but our fight is still far from over. We saw this with the Black Lives Matter Movement and the protests that have come from it. We saw this with voting restrictions and them trying to suppress voters. We have made great strides in the 21st century with history being made with the first Black President, Barak Obama, and Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first African American woman as Supreme Court Justice, just to name a few. In the 21st century, we continue to make history, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
Dr. King believed in Black people and the human race in general. He believed that change was possible and that a better world was attainable, and that this idea of “The American Dream” was not impossible. Anyone could achieve this dream regardless of skin color. He fought for peace and equality, and even though it has been years since his passing, his legacy still continues, and we should look at the MLK holiday as a reminder. A reminder to not forget about The Dream. A reminder to not forget about those who fought endlessly so that we can vote, and so that we can sit in restaurants amongst White people, and so many other things. So this MLK holiday, take time to reflect on your life, your community, and this nation. Everyone has to do their part and continue to make strides towards “The Dream.”