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Phoenix Forward

How has the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. impacted our lives?

Martin Luther King, Jr. superimposed on an American flag

Every third Monday of January, the nation takes time to pay observance to civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Oftentimes, that involves discussion of King’s accomplishments and impact on the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. But as time progresses, many social scientists say it is critical to analyze and appreciate King’s ongoing legacy.

“Dr. King’s principles of nonviolence were the underpinnings of how he influenced others to impact change — through the use of peaceful demonstrations, marches and sit-ins,” said Ketwana Schoos, MA,  MSED, a University of Phoenix faculty member in the College of Humanities and Sciences and also associate director of the Multicultural Success Center at Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis.

“Many of the nonviolent tactics used by Dr. King and his counterparts in the Civil Rights Movement can be seen in today’s society — namely Occupy Wall Street, which seeks to address basic economic inequalities and utilizes many of the civil disobedience protest methods that were employed during the Civil Rights Movement,” explains Schoos.

King’s tactics of peaceful civil disobedience directly assisted in not only altering public opinion but also the law, namely the Voting Rights Act and the desegregation of public transportation, says Schoos, adding that “the racial climate of the United States would be unfathomable had Dr. King not stepped up and fought for justice and equality.”

“Dr. King epitomized the power of one, as well as grassroots organization, and this legacy continues today,” Schoos explained. “King was only 26 years old when he was propelled as the spokesperson for the Montgomery Bus Boycotts in 1955.” His efforts, along with the work of other prominent Civil Rights Movement leaders, including Rosa Parks, helped to terminate the segregated bus system. 

“This was just the beginning,” adds Schoos, “of the law and policy changes that Dr. King would impact throughout his lifetime.”