Remembering the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a world-renowned civil rights activist and faith leader, whose contributions to non-violence and social justice are celebrated each January. During his lifetime, King was a leading figure in the Civil Rights Movement, known for his personal courage, powerful oratory, and profound commitment to non-violent civil disobedience as the best path to full inclusion and equality for Black Americans.

Among the many awards and honors he received, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, the same year President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. He was assassinated in April 1968, and a week after his death, the Fair Housing Act was enacted as the final piece of civil-rights era legislation.

The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion honors Dr. King for his work advancing social justice and his visionary conception of a world in which each individual could thrive and the community as a whole worked in harmony and peace toward shared, benevolent ideals. As Dr. King once said, 'We know that to bring justice, love, and friendship, we must build strong communities that foster these things.' We hope these words inspire you in your contributions to a more equitable and inclusive community at Sonoma State University and beyond.

Martin Luther King (MLK) Jr. Day 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (signed into law on November 2, 1983 and first officially observed on the third Monday of January 1986) is an American holiday marking the birthday of Dr. King. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around the time of King's birthday, January 15.

The Civil Rights Movement

Dr. King situated the civil rights movement in the United States as part of a global and international story. His vision reminds us we must look beyond narrow national frameworks to more fully understand the past, present, and future of racism in America.  

Letter From a Birmingham Jail 

While jailed for violating an injunction against protesting, in April, 1963, Dr. King wrote a letter in response to white local clergy who criticized his work and in support of the importance of civil rights protesting. This important document is known as the "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." You can listen to his letter here.

"I Have a Dream"

On August 28, 1963, Dr. King delivered the iconic "I have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. A crowd of 250,000 people attended the march to demand equality and justice. 

"In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men – yes, black men as well as white men – would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.… America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked 'insufficient funds.'"

-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Celebrating the Beloved Community

One of Dr. King’s most compelling visions was his concept of the “beloved community.” In April 1957, when he gave his sermon on “The Birth of a New Nation,” King’s beloved community was explicitly global. In this speech, he invoked the goal of a beloved community that leaves no one out. 

Coretta Scott King: A Civil Rights Icon

Coretta Scott King was the wife of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and was critical in the movement to end racial injustice. She also worked to continue her husband’s legacy after his death. Mrs. King spearheaded the massive campaign to establish Dr. King’s birthday as a national holiday, which was signed into law in 1983. She later established the King Center, a memorial which focused on protecting and advancing her husband’s legacy. 

SSU Reflections on MLK Jr.

"Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is someone who defined what it means to be a leader.  As a visionary he was able to inspire the public to get involved and do something when it came to Black racial injustice in America. He paved the way for activists in his time and his legacy lasts today as the movement continues. I am deeply appreciative of the work that Dr. King and other civil rights activists have done to better the lives of everyone! He taught the world to do what’s right, guided by love." 

Camryn Downey, Black Student Union (BSU) President

"Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. represents the long struggle for justice in the face of anti-blackness fought by so many generations of African Americans, past and present. Dr. King represents the Black Vernacular tradition of envisioning a freedom not yet realized under the system of American apartheid--segregation, degradation, inequality and racial oppression. Dr. King represents perseverance and endurance, imagination and creativity, didacticism and knowledge, critical consciousness and spirituality, and a deep self-awareness of one's interrelatedness and connection to all living beings. In short, Dr. King represents what it means to enact a beloved community."  

Dr. Kim Hester-Williams, Professor, Literature & Department Chair, American Multicultural Studies (AMCS)