Updated: Mar 25, 2022
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is important because it recognizes the key role he played in changing the practices of Jim Crow and Civil Rights in America. The holiday is relatively new and continues to gain acceptance with companies as a day that should parallel others, such as Independence day in importance.
As the celebration and commemoration of Dr. King’s life grow in acceptance, it is essential never to lose sight of the men and women whose work and sacrifice made Dr. King’s work possible. His rise to prominence is founded on the work and sacrifice of many nameless leaders who worked tirelessly, without the attention and celebrity that he enjoyed. No doubt he paid the ultimate price, along with many others, which we must never forget as we celebrate and commemorate the life of Dr. King.
We can create traditions that celebrate and remember the lives and work of women and men who gave so much for the sake of future generations.
One possible tradition is to talk about people whose work either led up to, supported, or followed the work Dr. King did during his life. Here are a few names that should be remembered and celebrated as essential figures in the work represented by the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration.
Bayard Rustin (1912 – 1987)
Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977)
Malcolm X (1925 – 1965
Ella Baker (1903-1986)
Daisy Bates (1914-1999)
A. Philip Randolph (1889 – 1979)
Diane Nash (1938- )
John Lewis (1940 –2020)
Dorothy Cotton (1930 –2018)
Dorothy Height (1912-2010)
James Farmer (1920 – 1999)
Septima Poinsette Clark (1898 – 1987)
Hosea Williams (1926 –2000)
Beah Richards (1920 – 2000)
Whitney M. Young, Jr. (1921 –1971)
Roy Wilkins (1901 – September 8, 1981)
The sixteen (16) names listed above are a small sample of the people who made the accomplishments of the Civil Rights Era possible. While we celebrate Dr. King, he would have likely been relegated to a celebrated Black Baptist Preacher and not the larger-than-life Human and Civil Rights icon he has become. Remembering and celebrating these men and women honors the legacy of the work they all did collectively that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. represents.