Dr. King's Education Legacy

Article excerpt


April 4, 1968, is a dark day in American history. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was on a mission of peace in Memphis. As evening fell, evil descended on the city. An assassin's gun ended the short life of a peaceful man.

During his life, Dr. King ministered not only to his church congregation but a nation hurt by the evils of segregation. His courage was unequaled in the Civil Rights era.

A true leader, Dr. King never saw violence as a way to end segregation. The segregationists in many states used threats and acts of violence to stop Dr. King. It didn't work. Since 1983, Americans have celebrated the life and everlasting spirit of a Baptist minister who, in 1968, marched into Glory.

Through the marches, rallies, church gatherings and boycotts, Dr. King remained dedicated to freedom's cause. He never let fear or danger hinder him.

Dr. King's historic role was educating American blacks about their basic constitutional rights. He also educated poor whites that they had nothing to fear from an empowered black population. "The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and ... critically. ... Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education," Dr. King once said. He recognized the importance of education in effecting justice.

During segregation, Southern school systems were inferior and produced poorly educated black students. Poor whites suffered as well. Privileged whites dominated higher education and, as a result, the highest-paying jobs.

To get a better education, blacks migrated to more favorable metropolitan areas, like Washington and New York, and improved their lives with education.

Over the years, Washington allocated more federal education dollars to Northern state school systems. Today, Southern school systems are doing a better job educating all their citizens, but considerable work remains to be done.

For me, Dr. King's most important message was about education. When he faced down segregation, education improved for all Southerners. Thanks to Dr. King, educators and politicians in the South paid more attention to improving the region's public education. I know this because I attended segregated grammar schools and, later, an integrated high school. …