Two scholars and a US diplomat in Tanzania have urged nations worldwide to build on the work of slain US civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and sustain his legacy by extending equality and social justice.
King was an African American leader of the civil rights movement in the 1960s who is remembered for his non-violent protests against the unequal treatment of African Americans which led to equal rights laws for all people.
King, who was killed on April 4, 1968 by a single shot while standing on the balcony outside his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was in town to support a sanitation workers’ strike, was an activist, scholar and religious leader.
- Global inspiration
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Mwanafuraha Mmari, a political scientist at the University of Dodoma in Tanzania, said King’s legacy in Africa will indelibly remain strong.
“Dr. King was one of the best civil rights leaders of the 20th century, who was admired by many African leaders because he devoted his life to justice, equality and social change,” she said.
Decades after his untimely death, King has continued to inspire civil rights leaders across Africa who are working to defend human rights and human dignity in the face of discrimination, oppression and injustice, Mmari said.
According to her, King’s remarks condemning discrimination, favoring social justice and the virtue of diversity are more relevant today in Africa than ever before.
Born on Jan. 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia, King was posthumously awarded the United Nations prize in the field of human rights 10 years after his death.
- Founding ideals
Donald Wright, the US Ambassador to Tanzania, told Anadolu Agency that in King’s life and work, he challenged Americans to live up to the founding ideals that all people are created equal and have inalienable rights.
“The Martin Luther King Day celebrated on the third Monday of January every year is an occasion for Americans to celebrate the life of the famous civil rights icon who fought for justice, equality and human dignity,” he said.
Wright said King is renowned worldwide for his 1963 speech titled “I Have a Dream,” in which he spoke of his hope for a future filled with racial harmony.
“Sadly, Dr. King was slain before seeing his dream come true,” he said.
Wright said America is still struggling with the effects of systemic racial discrimination as the killing of George Floyd in 2020 laid bare for the world to see.
“This struggle is central to the American identity. The recognition that our promises have yet to be fulfilled has spurred generation after generation into action to expand the reach of freedom and equality to all people around the world,” he said.
Wright said the best way to honor King’s memory is to continue to stand with those who share the ideals of freedom and equality.
“The legacy of Martin Luther King reminds us that the time is always right to do what is right…We cannot retreat or refuse to speak out against injustice,” he said.
Chris Peter Maina, a professor of law at the University of Dar es Salaam, said Barack Obama’s election as the 44th president of the US would not have been possible without the transformative effect of King’s struggle, leadership and legacy in dismantling segregation and institutional racism.
“America owes a great debt to Dr. King. Prior to him, the nation was hooked up in segregation and institutional racism,” Maina said.
According to Maina, King’s love of nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience forced America to confront its conscience and the immorality of racial injustice.
“King enabled America to embark on an extraordinary journey of recovery to reclaim its soul. He enabled them to live by the ideals that ‘all men and women are created equal,’ that they are endowed with inalienable rights," he said.
Maina said King had confidence in the democratic future of America, for he believed that as a people, they would be able to "transform the jangling discords of their nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”