Fighting for Freedom
Story by SN Tatyana Freeman on 02/07/2019
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – (Jan. 16, 2019) Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
King was a social activist, as well as an American Baptist minister, who played a vital role in the American civil rights movement.
In honor of his birthday, the heritage committee aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) hosted a ceremony Jan. 16 to remember the impact King had on our country.
In an effort bring about full equality for African Americans through nonviolent protest, King, along with other civil rights activists, founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957. As president of the SCLC, he gave lectures on nonviolent protest and civil rights, and met with religious figures, activists, and political leaders.
“He stood up for equality for every man and woman on this planet,” said Command Master Chief Maurice Coffey, the command master chief aboard George Washington. “We as Sailors, as those that wear the cloth of this nation, that is something that we do. We do it a little different than Dr. King did, but we stand for peace, and we stand for equality.”
King helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. He was the driving force behind landmark legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Coffey spoke about how his grandmother had so much pride when talking about protesting with King, and that she felt she did the right thing, not only for his mother and her brothers and sisters, but so all her grandchildren could have a better life.
In 1964, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent resistance to racial prejudice in America.
Eventually, in addition to seeking equality and human rights for African Americans, King supported and advocated for all economically disadvantaged and victims of injustice through peaceful protest.
“Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort,” said Robert F. Kennedy, an American politician and Navy veteran, in a speech after King’s death.
Thanks to King’s dedicated leadership and peaceful ideals, the civil rights movement made significant progress and was exposed to nationwide attention that helped bring about pivotal legislation and national awareness of human rights, peaceful demonstrations, and social justice.
“He embodied the meaning of peaceful justice,” said Electronics Technician Seaman Kade Gibbs, a Sailor assigned to George Washington. “His life and his work symbolized the quest for equality and nondiscrimination that lies at the heart of the American, and human, dream.”
King was passionate about racial equality, and the importance of treating everyone with dignity and respect.
“Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream,” said King. “It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'”
King made it his life’s work to bring people together, but there were those that didn’t support his vision. His life was cut short on April 4, 1968 when he was assassinated by James Earl Ray on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.
King’s legacy lives on today in those that continue to fight for equality for all. King said it best when he said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and George Washington are the only two people from U.S. history whose birthdays are celebrated as national holidays.