All Americans should be familiar with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But if you haven’t really thought about his life and times since you read about them in school, take a moment to think about the importance of the civil rights movement beyond “having a dream.” Like the context of this photo, for example.
Jalopnik’s staff have the day off today, so we’re going to be rerunning classic posts on the hour after this one.
I pulled this image out of the Associated Press’ archive because it’s the only picture I could find with Dr. King and a car. I figured why not just wish you, dear Jalopnik readers, a happy free Monday and be done with it.
Then I read the image’s description:
“Civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., left, and his chief deputy, Rev. Ralph Abernathy arrive at the Montgomery, Ala., courthouse, May 2, 1957, for the trial of Sonny Kyle Livingston Jr. and Raymond C. Britt Jr., on a charge of dynamiting a black church during a wave of racial violence.”
If you’re in your 20s, “more than 50 years ago” might seem like a long time. And I guess in some senses, it is. But for a nation, even one as young as the U.S.A., half a century is hardly ancient history. Put plainly: In the relatively recent past, white people were brazenly terrorizing and murdering black people here in America. In 2020, racial relations are certainly not perfect, but they’re a whole lot better, thanks in no small part to Dr. King.
Livingston and Britt were acquitted less than a month after that photo was taken, by the way.
The point I’m trying to make is that Dr. King wasn’t just standing up against segregated water fountains and getting bad bus seats. The civil rights movement was also about human rights. Rights as basic as the right to exist without being assaulted or killed by your countryman.
Thinking about the realities and horrors of the kind of racism that was rampant in the U.S. is sobering and saddening, but that’s why it’s important not to forget them.
Enjoy your Monday off today, relax, I know I will. But at some point in your day, consider taking some time to reflect on what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for, and what he had to fight against.
And here’s the above image, uncropped: