“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” – Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
“We were here before the mighty words of the Declaration of Independence were etched across the pages of history. Our forebears labored without wages. They made cotton ‘king’. And yet out of a bottomless vitality, they continued to thrive and develop. If the cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. . . . Because the goal of America is freedom, abused and scorned tho’ we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963
This week, we honor the legacy of Civil Rights leader, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life and work helped fulfill the promise of the American Founding in extending equal rights and liberty to all.
[message_box title=”Related Event” color=”blue”]Join us Jan. 28th for a free forum: “The Founders and Slavery: Teaching US History in Schools.” Learn more and register here.[/message_box]
Despite winning their freedom from slavery as a result of the Civil War, African Americans were still marginalized for nearly a century afterward, especially in the “Jim Crow” south. They were prevented from voting and holding elected office; segregated from whites in schools, restaurants, and public restrooms; and subjected to criminal acts of brutality without legal recourse.
Dr. King fought this grave injustice through a strategy of civil disobedience, demanding that all Americans enjoy the freedom for which our Founders – and generations later, hundreds of thousands of Union soldiers – had so valiantly fought. In the 1950s and ’60s, Dr. King organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott, helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to engage in non-violent protests and sit-ins, endured countless jail sentences, and led the March on Washington.
His eloquence and courage inspired a movement that has transformed America, resulting in the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts of 1964-65, and 50 years later, opening the door for an African-American to hold the highest office in the land.
Over the last several years, Pioneer Institute has promoted US History instruction in K-12 schools, to ensure that our children will learn about their national heritage, including the story of African Americans’ long struggle to gain the very rights that our Declaration proclaims.
Next Monday, January 28th, Pioneer hosts a free education forum exploring the experience of African Americans at the nation’s inception. “The Founders and Slavery: Teaching US History in Schools” features guest speakers Dr. Howard Dodson, Jr., a national leader in the preservation of African-American history, and Director of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center and Howard University Libraries; and Pulitzer winning Stanford historian and political science professor, Jack Rakove. Their addresses will be followed by a panel discussion about the appropriate role of US History instruction in K-12 education. We invite you to join us; please register here.
Pioneer has held many events and published numerous op-eds urging a renewed commitment to teaching history and civics in our schools, and the addition of US History as an MCAS-tested subject and graduation requirement, in accordance with state law. You can read some of our op-eds here, here, and here.