Martin Luther King Jr. Day is observed on the 3rd Monday of January as a Federal Holiday in the United States. The day is observed in celebration of Dr. King’s birthday, January 15, 1929. In 2023 the date of MLK Day is January 16.
Martin Luther King Jr. was the leading figure of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s in the USA. In life Dr. King was at the forefront of the fight against segregation, discrimination and other forms of racism, especially as entrenched in state and federal law. Tragically assassinated in 1967, the legacy of King has continued to inspire those who fight against racism and other forms of social injustice.
Martin Luther King Jr. was committed to the principles of non-violence. King was convinced that the only way to fight against the hate and violence and injustice of racsim was to counter it with peaceful resistance and non-violent protest. Perhaps more than anything else, this is why Dr. King is a hero to millions of people in the US, in Canada, and around the world.
One of the great songs of the 1990’s, “Zombie” by the Cranberries is also one of the great anti-war songs of all time. Dolores O’Riordan wrote the song in response to another atrocity of sectarian violence spilling out of Northern Ireland. In this case two young boys were killed, and over 50 people injured, after an IRA bomb exploded in Warrington, in the northwest of England. O’Riordan was sickened by the bombing, and like most people in Ireland, she had had enough of seeing violence carried out in the name of the Irish. “The IRA are not me. I’m not the IRA,” she said. “The Cranberries are not the IRA. My family are not. When it says in the song, ‘It’s not me, it’s not my family,’ that’s what I’m saying.” (source)
Originally written for The Temptations, “War” was eventually released as a single by Edwin Starr. Although the song has been covered by many artists, including Bruce Springsteen, the preeminent version remains that of Edwin Starr. Originally written as part of the protests against the Vietnam War, Edwin Starr’s peformance of “War” has stood the test of time and remains one of the most famous anti-war anthems to this day.
Join us in your school library this month as we explore and celebrate November’s themes: Peace, non-violence, and alternatives to war.
November is Peace Month in your School Library. Visit us in person and online to find out more about peace, peacemakers, non-violence, civil disobedience, reconciliation, alternatives to war and violence, and more.
From the United Nations: “Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The UN General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, through observing 24 hours of non-violence and cease-fire. But achieving true peace entails much more than laying down arms. It requires the building of societies where all members feel that they can flourish. It involves creating a world in which people are treated equally, regardless of their race.”
Monday was MLK Day in the United States, a wonderful opportunity for people around the world to remember Dr. King and what he stood and fought for. The “I Have a Dream Speech,” delivered at the “March on Washington” in 1963, is one of the most important speeches ever made, and just one of the many incredible achievements of Dr. King. Here is a video of that speech.
A few highlights of the speech by Martin Luther King Jr:
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brother- hood.”
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream.”
“I have a dream that… one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
“In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”
“When we allow freedom to ring — when we let it ring from every city and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last, Free at last, Great God almighty, We are free at last.”
The antiwar movement of the 1960s and early 1970’s focused on the American war in Vietnam and other parts of Southeast Asia. Many songs became forever associated with this era, perhaps none more so than “Give Peace a Chance.”
Although he was still a member of the Beatles, this was John Lennon’s first single released without the “Fab Four.” Originally the writing credits went to both Lennon and Paul McCartney, however later Lennon claimed that Yoko Ono deserved a credit, not Paul. The song was the musical highlight of the “Bed-In” of Lennon and Ono in Montreal in 1969. “Give Peace a Chance” would become what many consider to be the ultimate antiwar anthem.
Of course, many others will argue the ultimate antiwar anthem is John Lennon’s masterpiece, “Imagine.” Look for that in a future “Songs of Peace” post.
On Remembrance Day we reflect on the horrors of war and the terrible costs paid by soldiers, and by all people who live and die in war. This month in the school library we look at the theme of peace: Peacemakers, antiwar movements, pacifism, non-violent resistance, peace movements, conscientious objectors, and alternatives to violence and war.
Born on this day in 1925, Malcolm Little grew up in poverty and lived a life of crime. While in prison he worked to self-educate and converted to Islam, Publicly he became known as Malcolm X, dropping what he referred to as his “slave name.” Intelligent, articulate and charismatic, Malcolm X would become one of the leading figures of the fight for equality for African-Americans. In contrast to Martin Luther King who called for non-violent protest, Malcolm X believed that violence would be necessary for black people to gain their rights. Early on he was considered to be a black-supremacist who believed that blacks and whites could never live together. However, he would eventually disavow that position, and would preach the equality of all people and express a hope for peaceful coexistence. In the years prior to his death, he began to reach out with a willingness to work with other Civil Rights groups and leaders. In particular it was after the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca required of all Muslims, where he experienced the coming together of people of all races and backgrounds, that he embraced the possibility of peaceful change rather than inevitable violence. Tragically, he wouldn’t live long in pursuit of those dreams. He was assassinated in 1965 by members of the group he formerly led, the Nation of Islam.