COLUMN: On MLK and why the First Amendment matters

COLUMN: On MLK and why the First Amendment matters

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a paradigm for the effective and positive use of the First Amendment. While he may be gone, his legacy has endured and, in his time, Dr. King made great strides in bringing awareness to and speaking out against the racial injustice that plagued 20th century America. Growing up and continuing to live in highly segregated areas of the South, Dr. King was certainly no stranger to discrimination. At that time, the idea of separate but equal was largely ingrained and accepted within American culture until the overturning of the Supreme Court’s Plessy v. Ferguson case and by the landmark decision made in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. After that, attitudes throughout the nation began to shift, but the roots that had been implanted within society would be slow to recede, leading to conflicts and protests in the years to come. In fact, about a year later, Dr. King found himself in the middle of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He acted as the protest’s primary spokesperson, and by utilizing his rhetorical ability earned through his years of getting a doctorate in divinity, he declared a vocal and public opposition to the continuing problem of segregation. After Montgomery, Dr. King went for the heart of racial tensions in America: Birmingham, Alabama. In Birmingham, it was his act of civil disobedience towards an ordinance issued to delay protesters from gathering that led to his arrest. This arrest, however, would spark his classic penning of “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” In it, he criticized passivity and the notion that the solution to segregation was time...