Today is Martin Luther King Day, celebrating the birth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the great civil rights leader who trumpeted the use of non-violent action to move America toward a greater realization of “justice for all.”
His actions and eloquent speech led directly to the adoption of two of the most important legislative acts in U.S. history. At his urging, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned racial discrimination and segregation in all public accommodations, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which tore down the last legal barriers to voting by African Americans and other minorities.
Additionally, his movement promoted the adoption of the 24th Amendment, which prohibited any poll tax in elections for federal officials. The tax had been used not only to disenfranchise Black voters in the South, but also poor whites.
The Civil Rights Movement, which was aimed at giving Blacks the full rights of American citizens, also served as the inspiration for the expansion of rights and opportunities for women, Hispanics, the disabled and homosexuals.
King’s non-violent strategy also helped set as an example for efforts to protect and preserve the environment.
It was a great tragedy that he was murdered in 1968 at the age of 39. Few Americans have accomplished as much in such a short life, and few have done as much to bring to reality the pledge in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.”