Celebrating MLK at The Prep

Martin Luther King, Jr. is widely regarded as the one of the most influential civil rights activists in history. His impact has changed and enhanced American thought to this day. As we reflect on MLK not just in January, but throughout the year, we must start with his upbringing and roots that led him to become the figure he is remembered as today.

MLK’s upbringing was relatively comfortable. His parents were well-educated and came from a background of Baptist preachers. Consequently, King grew up in a strong, close-knit Baptist family in which he received a proper education. The social conflict of the time, however, did reach and affect King, especially segregation within schools. When he was 15 year’s old, King enrolled in Morehouse College in a special program for talented students. Over the summer before his first year, he went to Connecticut and witnessed a society where African Americans and whites mixed harmoniously. This observance fueled King’s hatred of the racial inequality he dealt with in the South. King was particularly interested in medicine and law, but his father yearned for him to enter the ministry. After graduating from Morehouse in 1948, he enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary, where King would learn about the philosophies of nonviolence and theological thought. After receiving a Bachelor of Divinity, King went to Boston University. It was there that he met his future wife, Coretta Scott from Alabama.

After 1955, when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat for a white man, the city of Montgomery elected King to lead their activist society and call for change. Yet, MLK saw that his action needed support, so he organized the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). This formation provided him a platform and operation base, as he spoke across the country about various social issues. In 1960, King was arrested for protesting segregation in Atlanta, but was released because of John F. Kennedy’s intervention. In 1963, MLK was again arrested for campaigning against segregation.

From the Birmingham jail to which he was sentenced, he wrote one of his most influential letters regarding nonviolence. Four days after writing the letter, he was freed and went on to greater accomplishments. On August 28, 1963, King and numerous other civil rights activists marched on Washington D.C toward the Lincoln Memorial. It was here that King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. In his influential piece, King focuses on a world in which all men would be equal. The impact of King’s speech was immediately felt. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, promoting desegregation and outlawing discrimination in public areas. He also received the Nobel Peace Prize later that year.

Despite King’s immense success, there was opposition to the greater civil rights movement. In 1968, King reflected on his past years, acknowledging, “I’m frankly tired of marching. I’m tired of going to jail… Living every day under the threat of death, I feel discouraged every now and then and feel my work’s in vain, but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.”

On April 4, 1968, James Earl Ray assassinated King, sparking various uprisings across the country.

In honor of his life and action, a memorial in Washington D.C. and national holiday were established. The legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. has and will continue to live on forever. He was a brave and eloquent leader who fought in an intelligent and measured fashion. He was special in his ability to draw on various philosophies and provide support for a meaningful cause. King’s focus on nonviolence influenced movements around the world. Thanks to his initiative, the course of our society has changed for the better.

The various backgrounds of Prep students make our institution a special place. Our school is a melting pot of cultures, ethnicities, and races. We can in great part thank Martin Luther King, Jr. for inspiring environments like these, as he advocated for a place in which all races could come together as one. I believe this properly encapsulates Seton Hall Prep – it is a place of brotherhood, where regardless of skin color, students come together and form as one.

Celebrating MLK this month reminds us throughout the year of all that he has done and how The Prep continues to foster social equity.