Martin Luther King Jr.

  • August 13, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Dr. Amos Brown, NAACP National Board Member

    *Noting the 50th anniversaries of Freedom Summer and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ACSblog is hosting a symposium including posts and interviews from some of the nation’s leading scholars and civil rights activists.

    In the 1950s, the winter of the civil rights movement in Mississippi, I worked alongside many brave black youth who actively fought racism and segregation, long before the press from northern communities ever arrived. Their heroic efforts and stories of courage in the face of staunch resistance in the 1950s are untold and unacknowledged.

    I organized the first youth council of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Mississippi in the fall of 1955, after being deeply impacted by the mutilated head of Emmett Till on the cover of Jet Magazine in August of that year. At only 15 years old, I asked my mother for permission to travel with Medgar Evers from Mississippi to San Francisco to attend the National Convention of the NAACP. At this convention, I was deeply inspired by the dream shared by a 26-year old Martin Luther King Jr.. This speech, given on the Wednesday night of the Convention, got my young peers and I fired up. We all agreed to return to our respective communities and become more involved.

    In 1958, under the NAACP, what was then called a sit-down was organized in Oklahoma Cityand led by Barbara Posey, a young woman who had served as the president of the youth council and engaged youth from elementary school through high school. This lunch counter sit-down was a success in its attempt to break down segregation. After this, there were a number of other successful youth led sit-downs around the country,  in cities such as Wichita and Louisville.

  • January 21, 2013
    Guest Post

    by Cedric Ricks, Communications Associate, and Jorge Soto, Public Policy Associate, National Fair Housing Alliance

    “All life is interrelated, that somehow we’re caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.  For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.  You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.  This is the interrelated structure of reality.”  Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Mich., December 19, 1963.

    Nearly half a century ago these powerful words typified the life and work of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Today, they are the cornerstone for a civil rights legacy that not only fights for racial justice in education, employment and housing, but for fairness for everyone facing injustice and discrimination. 

    King would be 84 if alive today.  It is important that we invoke his legacy as the nation prepares to honor his birth with a federal holiday.

    His ideals live on and are an active part of American culture - they provide a framework for measuring equality and justice in our society.  King’s assassination spurred Congress to pass the Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, one week after his death.  The Act was created in the aftermath of riots across the country in protest against substandard living conditions in segregated African-American communities.  It was designed to end residential segregation and promote racial integration – two goals that continue today.

    The legislation also offered protections to millions of Americans who faced discrimination in housing based on their religion, skin color or national origin.  Since the Fair Housing Act’s inception, protections have been extended to address sex discrimination and the challenges people with disabilities and families with children encounter when looking for suitable housing.  We are at a crossroads - where public opinion supports addressing poverty in meaningful ways and the inevitable expansion of LGBT rights.  Ending housing discrimination for poor and LGBT people is our next step toward achieving full fair housing.

  • September 16, 2011

    by Nicole Flatow

    Supporting the U.S. Constitution “requires more than chanting slogans at a political rally,” Rep. Bruce I. Braley said in a statement recognizing Constitution Day.

    Emphasizing the document’s critical significance to American democracy, Braley urged those who wish to understand the Constitution to review “the whole document and what it means to our country,” rather than “just the portions that fit neatly with your personal political philosophy.”

    In a second statement on the House floor, Rep. Steve Cohen linked the Constitution’s rights and principles to critical moments in our history.

    “When I think of the Constitution, I think of Dr. Martin Luther King and the right to peacefully assemble, which is enshrined in the First Amendment,” he said. “That meant he could go to Selma, he could come to Washington and fight for civil rights and secure those rights for the people of this nation. I also think of women’s rights embodied in the Nineteenth Amendment when women were given the right to vote.”

    Tomorrow is the 224th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution, but many are observing the Constitution Day holiday today.

    During Constitution Week, ACS has continued its tradition of teaching a new generation of students about our founding document through the Constitution in the Classroom program.

    But this year, ACS has also launched a series of webinars geared toward adults, “What the Constitution Means and How to Interpret It.” The second webinar in the series will feature University of North Carolina law professor Bill Marshall, discussing the ACS Issue Brief released this week, The Framers' Constitution: Toward a Theory of Principled Constitutionalism.

    For more Constitution Week reading, see ACSblog’s Constitution Week Symposium, and two columns by ACS Executive Director Caroline Fredrickson, one in The Tennessean and another in The Huffington Post.

  • September 1, 2011
    Guest Post

    This post is part of an ACSblog symposium in honor of the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial. The author, Lucas Guttentag, teaches at Yale Law School, where he is Robina Foundation Distinguished Senior Fellow and Senior Research Scholar.  He also serves as senior counsel to the Immigrants’ Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, and was the project’s founding director until 2011.  


    More than fifty years ago Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. heroically battled segregation and built a coalition of conscience to change our society and its laws. Today, a new struggle is being fought in many of the same places. Arizona, which famously refused to recognize Martin Luther King Day as a holiday, and Alabama, home of the Selma march and Dr. King’s “Letters from a Birmingham Jail,” today defend the most punitive anti-immigrant state laws in the country. 

    Under the banner of regulating immigration, these laws would institute a new system of discrimination.  They would encourage – if not compel – racial and ethnic profiling, prohibit offering transportation and housing to undocumented immigrants, impose state punishment for immigration-registration violations, and – under the Alabama law – require  schools to conduct immigration checks on students and their parents in a transparent attempt to deny children their constitutional right to public education. This virtual barricading of Alabama’s public schools by state officials is a grim reminder of earlier refusals to provide equal education for all.

    It is telling – and deserves high praise – that the Obama Justice Department has joined Alabama’s religious leaders and a coalition of civil rights groups in suing to stop the Alabama law as it did the earlier Arizona SB1070 statute.

    To be sure, immigration is a complex subject. But falling prey to superficial responses that exacerbate discrimination, target all who look or sound “foreign,” and cater to those who fear changing demographics or new immigrants is not the answer. Though sadly, it is nothing new and as much a part of our history as the glorious Statue of Liberty. For example, earlier hostility against Chinese immigrants in California led to racist state and local laws, including the infamous San Francisco anti-Chinese laundry ordinance that was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1886.

    But easily overlooked in the current controversy over state anti-immigrant laws is the even more fundamental fact that federal immigration laws and practices routinely deny basic constitutional protections to non-citizens in a system of mass arrest, detention and deportation. 

  • August 26, 2011
    Guest Post

    This post is part of an ACSblog symposium in honor of the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial. The author, Ali Noorani, is executive director of the National Immigration Forum.


    On September 22, 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sent a telegram to Cesar Chavez, leader of the United Farm Workers (UFW).

    For Dr. King, it was the height of the civil rights movement and a month before his death. For Chavez, it was the ascendancy of the UFW as they fought to secure collective bargaining agreements for farm workers in the grape fields of California.

    The telegram read:

    As brothers in the fight for equality, I extend the hand of fellowship and good will and wish continuing success to you and your members. The fight for equality must be fought on many fronts – in the urban slums, in the sweat shops of the factories and fields. Our separate struggles are really one – a struggle for freedom, for dignity, and for humanity. You and your valiant fellow workers have demonstrated your commitment to righting grievous wrongs forced upon exploited people. We are together with you in spirit and in determination that our dreams for a better tomorrow will be realized.

    Dr. King’s lessons ring true to this day as all of us continue to fight for equality. 

    The immigration movement’s path to justice requires hands of fellowship from the most unlikely of places. For the rights of immigrants, powerful hands of fellowship have come from conservative Christian leaders and law enforcement.