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Learn & Unlearn: Anti-racism Resource Guide

Lesson 1: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Original post on @saic.maffairs posted 1/19/21.

More Than A Speech: What is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day For?

On Monday, January 18, 2021, businesses and schools nation-wide will close in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy. Rather than being a “day-off,” this day is meant to serve as a day-on, a day of service, action, and commitment. Collectively, let’s recognize his accomplishments, educate our communities on Dr. King’s influence, and take accountability for the actions we must take to end racial injustice. 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lived to 39 years old, and was a prominent activist in the Civil Rights movement. In his 23+ years of activism, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. labored tirelessly to end segregation, racial injustice, the Vietnam War, and housing, economic, and civil discrimination. Dr. King’s work was not easy as he encountered conflict time- and time-again. At times he failed in his pursuit of justice, and at times he succeeded. It’s important we recognize the entirety of his journey. 

There is much to understand beyond the “I Have A Dream” speech. Dr. King wrote other speeches, sermons, books and letters - but he also arranged sit-ins, marches, the Freedom Rides, the Children’s Crusade, and the Poor People’s Campaign. At many times, his activism wasn’t as celebrated as they are today. For example, Dr. King was arrested and placed in jail 29 times. 

When we stop to learn about the entirety of his achievements and his struggles, we can notice the connections between then and now. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s work is as relevant then as it is today. Since the 60s, progress has been made, but when we recognize Dr. King’s legacy, we also must admit the flaws and advancements of our history, and acknowledge the work that still must be made in the pursuit of freedom.1


“Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider,” - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

To Read

Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1963 [Essay]

To Research

To Listen

To Watch

I Am MLK Jr,” Paramount Network [Documentary, trailer below]

King in the Wilderness,” HBO [DVD available through the library, trailer below]

The March,” PBS, 2013 [Documentary, trailer below]

At the River I Stand,” California Newsreel, 1993 [DVD available through the library, trailer below]

To Follow

Textile-based artist, Bisa Butler @bisabutler 
Bisa Butler’s work, “Bisa Butler: Portraits” is on display at the Art Institute of Chicago. 

To Consider

If Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were alive today, what might he say? 
How would he respond to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other Black Lives?
And how might Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s actions be perceived? How would he be treated? Are the barriers he faced in the 50s and 60s any different than they are today?
What are the commonalities and differences between the Civil Rights Movement and Black Lives Matter? 
Dr. King preached nonviolence. What does nonviolence mean? Whose role is it to be nonviolent?

Join Us

Understanding MLK - A Community Conversation
Monday, January 17, 2024, 12:00 - 03:00 p.m. 
Cultural Oasis, Sullivan Center, 36 S. Wabash Ave., room 1425
Embark on a transformative journey of communal introspection as we gather at Cultural Oasis to commemorate the profound life and enduring legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This event, "Vox-pop + Screening; King in the Wilderness," SAIC Multicultural Affairs invites you to join hands in a thoughtful exploration of Dr. King's tireless efforts as a beacon of justice, equality, and human dignity.


Works Cited

  1. Bob Adelman, “MLK: A Celebration in Word and Image,” The King Legacy, Beacon Press, October 2011