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Take A Moment For Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Then Enjoy Some Jalopnik Classics Today

Illustration for article titled Take A Moment For Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Then Enjoy Some Jalopnik Classics Today
Photo: Fred J. Griffith (AP)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

Illustration for article titled Take A Moment For Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Then Enjoy Some Jalopnik Classics Today
Photo: Fred J. Griffith (AP)

Jalopnik Staffer from 2013 to 2020, now Editor-In-Chief at Car Bibles

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DISCUSSION

mike-mckinnon
Chairman Kaga

The Civil Rights Act was passed 11 years before my birth. Dr. King was murdered 7 years before I was born. As a kid in the south I can still remember seeing segregated water fountains in certain places. The signs were long gone, but you could always tell because the “white” fountains were chilled and the “everyone else” fountains were just straight tap water, and either outside or somewhere generally inconvenient. I still remember asking my dad why some were different than others and the answer he gave. Didn’t really register until much later. But I can also remember where we lived in Georgia, the tern “n-word town” was used frequently by EVERYONE (like, I remember the pastor of our church would tell us he and his wife went to n-word town to deliver bibles) with no thought given whatsoever to that term - it was no different than saying Eastside or whatever. My dad was effectively fired from his job because he wasn’t exactly down with open racism in a public school. He allowed black staff members to address him by his first name, so while the superintendent was fine with white staff using first names, black staff HAD to always say Mister. The final straw was when my dad reprimanded the football coach for literally making black players pick cotton as a form of punishment. The school board demanded his resignation. This was 1983.

MLK Day isn’t a day off, it’s a day on. Don’t be apathetic about the systemized dehumanization and mistreatment of other human beings.