We Shall Overcome

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929. Did you know his name originally was Michael, but he later changed it? I didn’t, until I read his biography.

Dr. King graduated from high school at the age of fifteen. He attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, where he received his B. A. degree in 1948.

After three years of theological study at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, Dr. King was awarded the B.D. in 1951. With a fellowship won at Crozer, he enrolled in graduate studies at Boston University. He completed his residence for the doctorate in 1953, and received the degree in 1955.

In Boston, Dr. King met, and married, Coretta Scott. Dr. and Mrs. King were the parents of two sons and two daughters.

Along with others, such as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. was involved in working through peaceful bus boycotts, to move the Supreme Court of the United States to declare unconstitutional, the laws requiring segregation on buses on December 21, 1956. During the days of boycott, Dr. King was arrested, his home was bombed, and he was subjected to personal abuse.

In 1963, Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech before 250,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.


I have a dream that my four little 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.


I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.


And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

At the age of thirty-five, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in October 1964. So what did Dr. King do with the $54,123 prize money? He turned it over for the furtherance of the civil rights movement.

On the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fell to an assassin’s bullet.

At the time, I attended junior high in a Maryland suburb of DC. One memory I have of those crazy, hormonally-charged teen years, during a time when the whole world seemed to be going absolutely bonkers, was of an assembly that was held in our gym.

Whatever we had gathered for, is lost to me. What is not lost is the fact that at the end of the assembly, the entire school stood, held hands and sang, We Shall Overcome. Amazing. I remember feeling a catch in my throat, and looking around to see if anyone else was on the verge of tears.

In this video, the Morehouse College Glee Club sings We Shall Overcome, a whole lot better than a bunch of kids, and their teachers, in a suburban junior high ever could.

An interesting website to peruse for more insight into Dr. King is The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. Dr. King’s We Shall Overcome speech can be heard in this video.

If you were alive at the time, and I know some of you reading this, were not, what image, or experience stands out most to you, of this time in our nation’s history?

I wish you well.



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