Where would we be today without Martin Luther King Jr.? It’s hard to imagine that just 60 years ago the United States didn’t provide basic civil rights for people of all colors. But, unfortunately, at that time, segregation was protected by law and was the norm in American society.

King became involved in the Civil Rights Movement in 1955, as a result of the arrest of Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a bus in favor of a white passenger. King and the other activists led a boycott against the buses and petitioned the courts against segregation on public transportation. The success of this protest led to more non-violent protests across the country and the establishment of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to lobby for civil rights.

Martin Luther King organized and joined sit-ins and non-violent demonstrations and was even arrested more than once for his participation. In 1963,more than 200,000 people marched on Washington. In the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech:

“I have a dream that my four 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.”

The first step forward was the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination and gave the government a right to desegregate publicly owned facilities. But the fight for equality continued to be two steps forward, one step back, and although King continued the struggle, by 1968 he was beginning to get discouraged. We’ll never know what else he could have accomplished if he had not been assassinated that year by James Earl Ray.

Although King’s life was cut short, he began the process of ensuring equal rights for people of all nationalities and ethnicities. The United States of America owes many of its principles and laws to his courage and activism. This Martin Luther King Day, we salute Martin Luther King Jr., all those who fought for civil rights and equality in the United States and all those who continue to fight for an end to discrimination.

Happy Martin Luther King Day from Towne Nursing!