Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – 50 Years Later

Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A tribute by Jill Dennison


Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. was a giant among men. He led by his words, his actions, and the way he lived his life. Today, I have the distinct privilege to welcome one of the most gifted bloggers I know and my very good friend, Jill Dennison, to Words To Captivate. Jill has taught college courses in the USA on Black History in America and is an ardent fan of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On this 50th anniversary of MLK’s assassination, it is fitting that Jill shares with us how important this leader was in his own day and continues to be in the present because his work is not yet done. Thank you, Jill, for agreeing to be my guest today.


Every now and then an individual passes through this world who leaves behind an indelible mark, who is credited, deservingly, with having changed the world. Such an individual will be recorded in the annals of history long after the rest of us are but a vague and distant memory to future generations. Often, it seems, these individuals do not live long, leave much undone, but still, they made a difference far greater than those who may live to be a hundred. The life of one such man was cut short exactly fifty years ago today. That man was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

New York Times Article

There are numerous King biographies, some excellent. Many have written of his life, have paid tribute to him in a variety of ways. It is not my intent to add another to the tall stack, but merely to look at what it was that set MLK apart, that made him the shining star that influenced presidents and ordinary folk alike. And to pay a bit of tribute to a great man, and speak briefly of the legacy he left that, though it seems to be forgotten sometimes, is still with us today, even though Dr. King is not. Three things, I think, set Martin Luther King apart from the rest: his uncanny ability to know the right words for the right time, his oratory ‘gift’, and his peaceful, nonviolent approach.

MLK with a little girl

Some things cannot be learned – not from a textbook, not from parental or church guidance, nor even from life’s experiences. King’s timing in most things was impeccable, and it wasn’t something he learned, but rather just a knack he had. He knew when it was time to speak softly, but knew when it was time to raise his voice. He knew when the time and cause were right, such as when he organized the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955-56. He seemed to simply understand that Rosa Parks was the right cause and that the timing was right.

MLK + I have a dream quote

To this day, I cannot listen to King’s I Have A Dream speech without a chill running through me and tears welling in my eyes. Never before nor since have I heard anybody who could speak like Martin Luther King – not even John F. Kennedy, though he was an excellent orator. There was something about Martin, though, that made people listen, whether he was speaking quietly or booming into a microphone. You might not agree with what he was saying, but you could not help but listen. This, too, was a gift – it was not a learned skill, not even a talent really, not something practiced – it just was.

MLK in jail

Martin Luther King was, above all else, a peaceful activist. Despite this, he was arrested and sent to jail no less than 29 times during his life! One of those times was for driving 30 mph in a 25 mph zone – no racial profiling here! It was during one of his stints in the Birmingham, Alabama jail in 1963 that King penned what would become his most famous written document, Letter From A Birmingham Jail. He wrote the letter on newspaper margins, scraps of paper and smuggled-in legal pads. He had no notes or reference materials. His letter is timeless and so much of it still resonates today, 55 years later. For example, he called out the white church for being an “arch supporter of the status quo,” and castigated its ministers for failing to recognize the black man as their brother. We look at the evangelical Christian churches today and wish we could send a copy of King’s letter to each and every one. The letter is long … nearly 7,000 words … thus I cannot replicate it here but will include a link to the .pdf file for anyone who would like to read it.


And later that year, in August, Martin gave his iconic I Have A Dream speech that touched the hearts of so many.


Many, perhaps most, believe that King was killed because he was becoming too radical, steering further than just wanting “whites only” signs taken down. His focus had expanded to include the war in Vietnam, and in 1968 he was trying to build an interracial coalition to end the war in Vietnam and force major economic reforms. There are many theories about his assassination that I steer clear of, for as with the assassination of JFK almost five years earlier, I suspect the full truth will never be known. I prefer, instead, to focus on his legacy, to remember and remind others of the timeless lessons that he left us. The essence of Martin Luther King’s legacy, I think, can be summed by a few of his most poignant quotes:

MLK Quote: Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

MLK Quote: The Ultimate measure of a man...

MLK Quote: In the end...

MLK Quote: Injustice anywhere...

MLK Quote: That old law...

MLK Quote: Darkness cannot drive...

Did Martin Luther King put an end to racism? No, of course not. But he showed the world that it is possible, with determination, strength, and courage, to make a difference without the use of violence. He proved to us that it is possible to love everyone as brothers if we just open our hearts and our minds. Sadly, far too many have forgotten this, and today when I look around, I see nobody with those innate qualities Dr. King had that gave him the power to change the world, to open people’s hearts and minds with words rather than guns. We need another Dr. Martin Luther King. After 50 years, we still miss Dr. Martin Luther King.


A Bit of MLK trivia …

• He skipped two grades and left for college before formally graduating high school. Entering Morehouse College at the age of 15, he was accepted as part of an early admittance program that was aimed to boost enrollment during the war. Dr. King received a bachelor’s degree at age 19.

• Upon marrying his wife, Coretta, he realized that it was not very easy for him to go on a honeymoon due to his skin color, so they ended up having it at a friend’s funeral parlor.

• On September 20, 1958, King was in Harlem signing copies of his new book, “Stride Toward Freedom,” in Blumstein’s department store when he was approached by Izola Ware Curry. The woman asked if he was Martin Luther King Jr. After he said yes, Curry said, “I’ve been looking for you for five years,” and she plunged a seven-inch letter opener into his chest. The tip of the blade came to rest alongside his aorta, and King underwent hours of delicate emergency surgery. Surgeons later told King that just one sneeze could have punctured the aorta and killed him. From his hospital bed where he convalesced for weeks, King issued a statement affirming his nonviolent principles and saying he felt no ill will toward his mentally ill attacker.

• In 1964, at the age of 35, King won the Nobel Peace Prize. To this day he is still the youngest male to ever receive it.

• On June 30, 1974, as Dr. King’s mother, 69-year-old Alberta Williams King played the organ at a Sunday service inside Ebenezer Baptist Church. Marcus Wayne Chenault Jr. rose from the front pew, drew two pistols and began to fire shots. One of the bullets struck and killed Ms. King, who died steps from where her son had preached nonviolence. The deranged gunman said that Christians were his enemy and that although he had received divine instructions to kill King’s father, who was in the congregation, he killed King’s mother instead because she was closer. The shooting also left a church deacon dead. Chenault received a death penalty sentence that was later changed to life imprisonment, in part due to the King family’s opposition to capital punishment.

• As a result of helping organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott that lasted 385 days, King was not only arrested but his house was also bombed.

• There are two places outside of the United States that celebrate MLK day: Toronto, Canada, and Hiroshima, Japan.


John’s Believe It Or Not… July 20th

* 1629 – David & Thomas Kirke force Samuel de Champlain to surrender his fur fort at Québec. * 1969 Armstrong walks on moon. * 1881 Sitting Bull surrenders. * 1976 Viking 1 lands on Mars. * 1963 Jan and Dean’s “Surf City” hits #1

It’s Friday! TGIF! Did You Know…

* 1629 – David & Thomas Kirke force Samuel de Champlain to surrender his fur fort at Québec.

The surrender of Quebec in 1629 was the taking of Quebec City, during the Anglo-French War (1627-29). It was achieved without battle by English privateers led by David Kirke, who had intercepted the town’s supplies.

It began in 1627 with David Kirke’s father when several London merchants formed the Company of Adventurers to Canada to develop trade and settlement for profit on the Saint Lawrence River. Made up of private investors, it was chartered by the Crown as a means of extending English influence in exploration and colonial development. When the Anglo-French War broke out later that year, the Company financed an expedition, which was commissioned by Charles I of England, to displace the French from “Canida”. The French had settlements along the Saint Lawrence River. Continue reading “John’s Believe It Or Not… July 20th”

John’s Believe It Or Not… July 19th

* 1701 – Cadillac arrives at Detroit with a fleet of settlers. * 1799 Rosetta Stone found. * 1979 Oil tankers collide in Caribbean Sea. * 1848 Seneca Falls Convention begins. * 2003 Thousands of fans join the Miami funeral procession of Celia Cruz.

It’s Thursday! Did You Know…

* 1701 – Cadillac arrives at Detroit with a fleet of settlers.

Antoine Laumet, dit de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac 1658-1730, soldier, explorer, and French colonial Governor, born March 5, 1658 at Les Laumets, Saint-Nicolas-de-la-Grave, Gascony, France, the son of Jean Laumet, an assistant magistrate in the local court; died October 15, 1730 at Castelsarrasin, France. Cadillac is educated in a military school, then joins the regiment of Dampierre-Lorraine. Legend says he possessed a very long nose that supposedly inspired Edmond Rostand’s play, Cyrano de Bergerac, and that he inspired King Louis XIV with his wit, courage, honesty, and swordsmanship. He was sent to New France to work under Governor Frontenac as investigator for the king, reporting on corruption in the colony. Continue reading “John’s Believe It Or Not… July 19th”

John’s Believe It Or Not… July 18th

* 1814 – Eight traitors captured during the War of 1812 are hanged at Ancaster – Upper Canada.  * 2012 Kim Jong-un is officially appointed Supreme Leader of North Korea and given the rank of Marshal in the Korean People’s Army. * 64 Nero’s Rome burns * 1986 Video of Titanic wreckage released * 1995 Barack Obama’s “Dreams from My Father” is published

It’s Hump Day Wednesday! Did You Know…

* 1814 – Eight traitors captured during the War of 1812 are hanged at Ancaster – Upper Canada.

We like to think that we were removed from barbarian practices of the middle ages, perhaps not quite so removed. An incident in Canada during the War of 1812 saw men’s heads lopped off and paraded on spikes.

At the beginning of the war, Americans thought Canadians would welcome their invading troops as liberators from British rule. They were eventually awakened to a much different reality. Still, there were Americans who had moved north and some Canadians who were sympathetic to the American ideal and others who were indifferent to the Empire and might be persuaded to the American cause. Continue reading “John’s Believe It Or Not… July 18th”

John’s Believe It Or Not… July 17th

* 1976 – Queen Elizabeth II officially opens the Montréal Olympic Games. * 1955 Disneyland opens * 1938 “Wrong Way” Corrigan crosses the Atlantic * 1975 Superpowers meet in space * 1996 Flight 800 explodes over Long Island

It’s Tuesday! Did You Know…

* 1976 – Queen Elizabeth II officially opens the Montréal Olympic Games.

In 1976, Montréal became the first Canadian city to host the Olympic Games. The XXIst Olympiad, held from 17 July to 1 August 1976, included memorable performances from many athletes, including Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci and American decathlete Bruce Jenner. Although Canada did not win a gold medal at the Games, the Canadian team won 11 medals in total —more than double the number of medals won at each of the previous two Olympic Games. The Olympic facilities, while costly, became Montréal landmarks and many are still used for training and competition. Continue reading “John’s Believe It Or Not… July 17th”

John’s Believe It Or Not… July 16th

* 1880 – Emily Howard Stowe the first woman licensed to practice medicine in Canada. * 622 Muslim Era begins – Muhammad begins flight from Mecca to Medina (Hijra) * 1863 Draft riots continue to rock New York City * 1951 Catcher in the Rye is published * 1999 JFK Jr. killed in plane crash

It’s Monday! Did You Know…

* 1880 – Emily Howard Stowe the first woman licensed to practice medicine in Canada.

Emily Howard Stowe (née Jennings, May 1, 1831 – April 30, 1903) was the first female doctor to practise in Canada, the second licensed female physician in Canada and an activist for women’s rights and suffrage. Stowe helped found the women’s suffrage movement in Canada and campaigned for the country’s first medical college for women.

Emily Howard Jennings Stowe was born in Norwich Township, Oxford County, Upper Canada to Hannah Howard and Solomon Jennings. While Solomon converted to Methodism, Hannah raised Stowe and her five sisters as Quakers. In the tradition of the Society of Friends, Stowe’s parents encouraged her to obtain an education; they sent her to a co-educational Quaker school in Providence, Rhode Island. Continue reading “John’s Believe It Or Not… July 16th”

John’s Believe It Or Not… July 13th

* 1953 – Shakespeare’s Richard the Third opens the first season of the Stratford Festival – held in a tent. * 1985 Live Aid concert * 1793 Charlotte Corday assassinates Marat * 1960 Kennedy nominated for presidency * 1990 Ghost opens

It’s Friday! TGIF! Did You Know…

* 1953 – Shakespeare’s Richard the Third opens the first season of the Stratford Festival – held in a tent.

The Stratford Festival (named the Stratford Shakespearean Festival, 1953–57; Stratford Festival, 1957–99; Stratford Festival of Canada, 2000–08; Stratford Shakespeare Festival, 2008–12) is an annual repertory theatre festival. It is recognized internationally as one of the premier festivals of classical and contemporary theatre. Continue reading “John’s Believe It Or Not… July 13th”

Thursday – A Little Personal – Twiggy Continues Learning

Too cute for words – John W. Howell gifts with another delightful lesson featuring Twiggy, Bailey, and Lucy. Please enjoy!

Fiction Favorites

“Hi, Bailey. What’s going on?”

“Hi, Pops. I was just wondering what Lucy and Twiggy are up to out there.”

“From here it looks like they are talking.”

“Talking? What about?”

“Hard to say, Bailey. You know Lucy has taken her role as big sister seriously. Why don’t you join them and see what they are saying?”


“Good idea.”

“Hey, you guys. Whatcha talkin’ about?

“Twiggy was asking about the birds and the bees.”

“OMG so soon?”

“Relax, Bailey. She was worried about the Pelicans.”

“You tell her they are just big fish eaters?”

“Yup. Man look at that flock.”

“Anyway, I also told her to beware of those big bees.”

“What are you looking at Twiggy?”

“I think I see a bee out there Bailey.”

“I don’t think so. That looks like a fly to me.”

“A fly? It’s a pretty big fly.”


“You guys should pay more attention…

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