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Martin Luther King Day

There is no school in session on Monday in order to honor slain Civil Rights leader, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was asassinated 40 years ago by James Earl Ray, in 1968. Though convicted as a “lone gunman”who had confessed to the killing, Ray, who died in 1998, recanted his confession and later asserted in Congressional testimony that he had not shot King and then still later that he had been part of a larger conspiracy. A charge that received the vocal support of some members of the King family who wanted a renewed investigation into MLK’s assassination.

Dr. King was best known for his philosophy of non-violence and practice of mass civil disobedience, one modelled on Mahatma Gandhi’s movement against British colonialism in India, to end Jim Crow segregation in the South and acquire voting rights for African-Americans.  After the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, King had greater difficulties keeping his followers unified and faced challenges to his leadership from radicals opposed to his philosophy of non-violence, including the anti-integrationist Black Muslim leader Malcolm X and the pro-Communist “Black Power” advocate Stokely Carmicheal.  A powerful enemy of King’s was the longtime FBI Director, J.Edgar Hoover, who convinced himself  that King was either a Communist himself or was being naively manipulated by Communist Party agents loyal to the Soviet Union, and who ordered (an illegal) electronic surveillance of all of King’s activities, public and private.

King was an impressive orator and is usually mentioned alongside Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy, Daniel Webster, William Jennings Bryan, Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan as having been among the most influential speakers in our history.

Below, his most famous speech, “I have a Dream…”

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Categories: biography, History
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