On this national holiday weekend, feds are joining people across America and the world in honoring the life and achievements of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
Federal employees and their organizations are taking time to honor one of the most effective fighters for civil and workers’ rights—Martin Luther King, Jr.—on what would have been his 93rd birthday.
The MLK weekend holiday “marks the birthday of the civil rights legend whose courage and activism changed history and the lives of the American people,” the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) offered in a statement—along with a list of events and in-person and online ways for feds to honor Dr. King and the ongoing effort to strengthen equal rights for all Americans.
“I call on all our members and every American to join us in reflecting on the lessons of Dr. King’s work and how we can apply his vision to our society today,” said the president of another major federal union, the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), Randy Erwin. “As a fierce advocate for the working class and champion of equality for people across the globe, we strive to encapsulate Dr. King’s values in our mission as a union.”
“We remember and celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And we honor those who continue his work today,” the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) stated on its website.
King and colleagues throughout the fight for civil rights pressured and negotiated for federal aid in integrating schools and businesses—and—along with other Black and civil rights leaders—succeeded in gaining passage of two of the movement’s top goals, the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act which codified bans against racial discrimination.
“From the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom to the civil rights and voting rights acts, Dr. King’s words and vision continue to resonate with people who are seeking social and economic justice around the world,” AFGE noted.
The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on Jan. 15, 1929, and raised in Atlanta, Ga., during the depths of Jim Crow segregation and racial discrimination against Black people. But in his brief lifetime—joined by a wide front of allies of all races, religions and backgrounds—he developed a stunningly effective series of protests, strikes and other nonviolent direct actions that succeeded in breaking the back of legal segregation in this country.
“The cornerstones of his activism were based on non-violence and civil disobedience, both of which were inspired by his Christian faith and the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi,” as notes a commemorative statement posted by the National Archives & Records Administration.
Indeed, while at seminary, King put serious study into Mahatma Gandhi’s writings on nonviolence as the way forward for social change. It was the cornerstone of the civil rights organization he founded, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. As the movement developed, scholars and survivors of the era point out, King believed events proved that the best way to fight racist laws and customs was by pairing nonviolent direct action with “litigation and lobbying”—the latter two being the specialty of SCLC’s close ally, the NAACP.
Nonviolent tactics, along with King’s leadership, played definitive roles at every step of the civil rights movement between the early 1950s to his tragic assassination in 1969: the 1955 boycott of the segregated Montgomery bus system, the 1963 March on Washington, as well as the later marches from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. in the face of extreme police violence.
The bravery and sacrifice of those who participated was magnetic and inspired thousands of Americans of all colors and backgrounds to join, financially and on the ground, in the fight for civil rights. King’s nonviolence also won over millions more who came to see the movement in a favorable light.
In his lifetime, King earned the Nobel Peace Prize. In the decades since his murder, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.
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