Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., devoted his life to rectifying some of the worst evils in our society. By using tactics similar to those used by Mohandas K. Gandhi in his leadership of the Salt March, Dr. King was able to touch the conscience of America. In the process he inspired us to rethink the "separate but equal" fiction of the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of the Supreme Court, which found the Jim Crow laws to be constitutional1,
Before Dr. King became a martyr to the cause of civil equality, he reflected on his role in his powerful "I have a dream..." speech delivered in Washington, DC, at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, one hundred years after President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. That theme, a dream of a better day, came toward the end of his speech, when he was touched by a call from Mahalia Jackson, "Tell them about the dream, Martin!" Departing from his prepared remarks, he continued, inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Five years later, after numerous death threats and even scrutiny from J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, Dr. King delivered his last speech on April 3, 1968, at the headquarters of the Church of God in Christ in Memphis, Tennessee. His powerful line "I've been to the mountaintop!" evoked an image of Moses, standing atop Mount Nebo, overlooking the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 34:1).
And just as God had ordained that Moses would not enter the Promised Land on Earth, so Dr. King would not enter the Promised Land of racial equality before the law. I have no doubt that, in both cases (that of Moses and that of Dr. King), God exacted a final moment of humbling to purify their souls before taking them to himself.
Moses, Gandhi, and King were all martyrs to the cause of human justice.
- 1. Yes, Virginia, it is possible for the Supreme Court of the United States to be profoundly in error.