Dr. King’s 95th birthday — reflections on lineage and obligation

Martin Luther King Jr

Martin Luther King, Jr., 26 March 1964.

Photo by Marion S. Trikosko, Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons


Had he lived, Dr. King would have been 95 years old today — January 15, 2024.


Imagine Dr. King at 95.   What would he say to us?  What would he ask us to remember?  What would he urge us to do?


When we celebrate Dr. King’s birthday, we celebrate the collective leadership of the Black Freedom Movement, the movement against the War in Vietnam, and the countless campaigns for equal justice, labor and civil rights, and peace from the mid-1950s through the mid-1970s that Rev. James Lawson sees as an integrated “Nonviolent Movement of America.”


Several of Dr. King’s closest friends and comrades-in-nonviolent-arms have lived to their 90s, and are very much with us.


Clarence B. Jones, two years younger than Dr. King,  just celebrated his 93rd birthday a week ago.   Here is Jones’s tribute to his beloved friend published in USA Today on the occasion of Dr. King’s 95th birthday.


Ambassador Andrew Young is 91.   Rev. James Lawson is 95.    We are all blessed to have Dr. Jones, Rev. Young and Rev. Lawson with us — each of them still fighting for justice and equality and human rights with great moral strength.


Rev. Andrew Young & Dr. Clarence B. Jones, Atlanta, 2019, photo by Paul Ryan


Harry Belafonte died last year at the age of 96, an enormous loss.   As was the recent loss of Rev. C.T. Vivian at the age of 96, John Lewis at the age of 80, Bob Moses at the age of 86, and Dorothy Cotton at the age of 88.   We hold them in blessed memory.


On April 3, 1968, at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Dr. King shared his final vision with the striking sanitation workers, and with us:


“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”


Dr. King was not blessed with longevity.   He was assassinated the next day, April 4, 1968, at the age of 39.


Even at such a young age, he had been to the mountaintop, and seen the promised land.   He was a prophet, but he did not stand alone.   He carried the light passed to him by Medgar Evers and Fannie Lou Hamer and Bob Moses and Ella Baker and Rosa Parks, and many others who had marched side by side with him and rode buses and sat at lunch counters and withstood beatings and lynchings, and by the great liberation leaders born in the prior century, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, W.E.B. du Bois, and Septima Clark, and countless unnamed martyrs.


Frederick Douglass, 1879, National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain


Dr. Clarence B. Jones, reflecting on his years working so closely with Martin Luther King, Jr., sees King’s life’s work as an extension of the legacy of Frederick Douglass, especially Douglass’s analysis of power, and his theory of social change.  This is from Douglass’s August 3, 1857 “West India Emancipation” speech at Canandaigua, New York:


“Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.  This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”


In 1881, Douglass published “The Color Line” in the North American Review.   It begins with a diagnosis of racism as a “moral disorder”:


“Few evils are less accessible to the force of reason, or more tenacious of life and power, than a long-standing prejudice. It is a moral disorder, which creates the conditions necessary to its own existence, and fortifies itself by refusing all contradiction. It paints a hateful picture according to its own diseased imagination, and distorts the features of the fancied original to suit the portrait. As those who believe in the visibility of ghosts can easily see them, so it is always easy to see repulsive qualities in those we despise and hate.”


Picture with me the night of March 16, 1892.  Imagine being in the audience at Tremont Temple in Boston when Douglass spoke about the Haitian Revolution, the largest slave revolt in modern history, and its meaning for those who had been enslaved in the United States, and who by 1892 had found themselves re-enslaved in plantation sharecropping and other forms of indentured servitude.  Douglass, with his “thick whitening hair brushed back from his forehead, and his eye as keen and brain as clear as ever.”  A young student was there in the crowd, W.E.B. Du Bois, age 24.   One can only imagine Du Bois’s feelings on that night, before the great abolitionist, who rose up from slavery to command the power of fierce advocacy for human liberation — before Emancipation, and then again following the demise of Reconstruction.


Eight years late, on July 25, 1900, when he was 32 — already an eminent professor at Atlanta University, Du Bois gave an address (“To the Nations of the World”) at the First Pan-African Conference, at Westminister Hall, London, framing his talk as an extension of Douglass’s analysis and legacy:


“In the metropolis of the modern world, in this the closing year of the nineteenth century, there has been assembled a congress of men and women of African blood, to deliberate solemnly upon the present situation and outlook of the darker races of mankind.  The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line, the question as to how far differences of race — which show themselves chiefly in the color of the skin and the texture of the hair — will hereafter be made the basis of denying to over half the world the right of sharing to their utmost ability the opportunities and privileges of modern civilization….


Let the world take no backward step in that slow but sure progress which has successively refused to let the spirit of class, of caste, of privilege, or of birth, debar from life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness a striving human soul…


Let not the spirit of Garrison, Phillips, and Douglass wholly die out in America; may the conscience of a great nation rise and rebuke all dishonesty and unrighteous oppression toward the American Negro, and grant him the right of the franchise, security of person and property, and generous recognition of the great work he has accomplished in a generation toward raising nine millions of human beings from slavery to manhood…”


W.E.B. Du Bois, 1907, James E. Purdy,  National Portrait Gallery, Wikimedia Commons


Du Bois never ceased to be inspired by Douglass’s fight for human progress.  One of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), in 1009, he became the editor of its magazine The Crisis.     His scholarship and literary work was immense.   His magisterial Black Reconstruction in America (1935) remains a powerful rebuke to the racist historiography of the era.    “The slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun,” he wrote, “then moved back again toward slavery.”  We as a nation had indeed taken a backward step, eviscerating the achievements of Reconstruction, crushing rights that had been secured in the 14th and 15th Amendments, and replacing them with the system of Jim Crow racism enforced by KKK terror.    Du Bois repeatedly asked the question “Where do we go from here?”  (See e.g. “Where Do We Go From Here?”  Address at the Rosenwald Economic Conference, Washington D.C., 1933).   King used this question as the title of his final book, with a subtitle that framed the question existentially, Where Do We Go From Here:  Chaos or Community? (Beacon, 1967), devoting a chapter echoing the Du Bois analysis of the pendulum of progress and reaction in American history (“Racism and the White Backlash”).


In 1961, following his longstanding Pan-African vision, Du Bois accepted an invitation by Kwame Nkrumah to live in newly independent Ghana.   In 1963, at the age of 95, Du Bois became a Ghanian citizen.   On February 23, 1963, the University of Ghana, Accra, honored Du Bois with an honorary doctorate on the occasion of his 95th birthday.


W.E.B. Du Bois and others during degree ceremony, University of Ghana, Accra, February 23, 1963

W.E.B. Du Bois, University of Ghana,February 23, 1963

University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries


In the evening of August 27, 1963, Du Bois died in his sleep, in his adopted home.   Du Bois’s final act before going to bed was to write and send a telegram to support the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.


The following day, August 28, Clarence B. Jones was standing in the crowd at the March by the Lincoln Memorial listening to the speakers and singers on the program, prior to Dr. King’s concluding speech.   A stranger tapped him on the shoulder, and pointed him to another man waiving to get Jones’s attention — an AP reporter who recognized Jones as Dr. King’s lawyer and advisor.  The reporter told Jones that he had just gotten word that the iconic Black scholar and racial justice activist had died in Accra.  “You should get word to Dr. King,” the reporter said, “so they can make an announcement.”  Jones looked around for a sheet of paper — all he could find was the March program, he held in his hand.



Here is Dr. Jones’s description of what happened next:


“I folded the program lengthwise with my note facing in so it could not be read casually.   Then I asked the man in front of me, a stranger in the crowd, to pass it along, ‘To Martin Luther King,’ I said.  He nodded and tapped the person next to him on the shoulder.  ‘This is for Dr. King,’ I heard him say.'”  [The paper made its way through the crowd, eventually reaching King. ]  He opened it and readit, then stood up halfway, turned around and waived to me with a sorrowful expression, acknowledging that he’d received it.  Within a few minutes Roy Wilkins, president of the NAACP, approached the lectern and annonnced W.E.B. Du Bois’s passing to the assembled crowd.”  Clarence B. Jones and Stuart Connelly, Behind the Dream:  The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation (Palgrave MacMillan, 2011, pp. 145-148).


King placed the folded paper in his coat pocket.   Years later it was found by Coretta King, and shared with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, where Dr. Jones served as Scholar in Residence, bringing the paper full circle, and bringing tears to his eyes.


On February 23, 1968, Dr. King gave the keynote speech at a benefit event honoring the 100th birthday of W.E.B. Du Bois.   Here are excerpts from King’s address:


“Tonight we assemble here to pay tribute to one of the most remarkable men of our time. Dr. Du Bois was not only an intellectual giant exploring the frontiers of knowledge, he was in the first place a teacher. He would have wanted his life to teach us something about our tasks of emancipation.


One idea he insistently taught was that Black people have been kept in oppression and deprivation by a poisonous fog of lies that depicted them as inferior, born deficient and deservedly doomed to servitude to the grave. So assiduously has this poison been injected into the mind of America that its disease has infected not only whites but many Negroes. So long as the lie was believed the brutality and criminality of conduct toward the Negro was easy for the conscience to bear. The twisted logic ran — if the Black man was inferior he was not oppressed — his place in society was appropriate to his meager talent and intellect.


Dr. Du Bois recognized that the keystone in the arch of oppression was the myth of inferiority and he dedicated his brilliant talents to demolish it.


There could scarcely be a more suitable person for such a monumental task. First of all he was himself unsurpassed as an intellect and he was a Negro. But beyond this he was passionately proud to be Black and finally he had not only genius and pride but he had the indomitable fighting spirit of the valiant…


Dr. Du Bois the man needs to be remembered today when despair is all too prevalent. In the years he lived and fought there was far more justification for frustration and hopelessness and yet his faith in his people never wavered. His love and faith in Negroes permeate every sentence of his writings and every act of his life. Without these deeply rooted emotions his work would have been arid and abstract. With them his deeds were a passionate storm that swept the filth of falsehood from the pages of established history.


He symbolized in his being his pride in the Black man. He did not apologize for being Black and because of it, handicapped. Instead he attacked the oppressor for the crime of stunting Black men. He confronted the establishment as a model of militant manhood and integrity. He defied them and though they heaped venom and scorn on him his powerful voice was never stilled.


And yet, with all his pride and spirit he did not make a mystique out of blackness. He was proud of his people, not because their color endowed them with some vague greatness but because their concrete achievements in struggle had advanced humanity and he saw and loved progressive humanity in all its hues, black, white, yellow, red and brown.


Above all he did not content himself with hurling invectives for emotional release and then to retire into smug passive satisfaction. History had taught him it is not enough for people to be angry — the supreme task is to organize and unite people so that their anger becomes a transforming force. It was never possible to know where the scholar Du Bois ended and the organizer Du Bois began. The two qualities in him were a single unified force.


This life style of Dr. Du Bois is the most important quality this generation of Negroes needs to emulate. The educated Negro who is not really part of us and the angry militant who fails to organize us have nothing in common with Dr. Du Bois. He exemplified Black power in achievement and he organized Black power in action. It was no abstract slogan to him.


We cannot talk of Dr. Du Bois without recognizing that he was a radical all of his life….”


King and Du Bois were different in many ways.   King was first and foremost a minister of the Gospel, a man of faith.   Du Bois was a scholar above all.   Still, everything Dr. King said about Du Bois in the Carnegie Hall tribute was true in equal measure about King himself.


Martin Luther King, Jr. at Carnegie Hall, February 23, 1968,


In the conclusion of his remarks that evening, Dr. King’s eulogy for Du Bois became a call to action in their common spirit, and the spirit of Frederick Douglass:


“In closing it would be well to remind white America of its debt to Dr. Du Bois. When they corrupted Negro history they distorted American history because Negroes are too big a part of the building of this nation to be written out of it without destroying scientific history. White America, drenched with lies about Negroes, has lived too long in a fog of ignorance. Dr. Du Bois gave them a gift of truth for which they should eternally be indebted to him.


Negroes have heavy tasks today. We were partially liberated and then re-enslaved. We have to fight again on old battlefields but our confidence is greater, our vision is clearer and our ultimate victory surer because of the contributions a militant, passionate Black giant left behind him.”


Dr. Du Bois has left us but he has not died. The spirit of freedom is not buried in the grave of the valiant. He will be with us when we go to Washington in April [for the Poor People’s Campaign] to demand our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  We have to go to Washington because they have declared an armistice in the war on poverty while squandering billions to expand a senseless, cruel, unjust war in Vietnam. We will go there, we will demand to be heard, and we will stay until the administration responds. If this means forcible repression of our movement, we will confront it, for we have done this before. If this means scorn or ridicule, we will embrace it for that is what America’s poor now receive. If it means jail we accept it willingly, for the millions of poor already are imprisoned by exploitation and discrimination.


Dr. Du Bois would be in the front ranks of the peace movement today. He would readily see the parallel between American support of the corrupt and despised Thieu-Ky regime and northern support to the southern slave masters in 1876. The CIA scarcely exaggerates, indeed it is surprisingly honest, when it calculates for Congress that the war in Vietnam can persist for 100 years. People deprived of their freedom do not give up — Negroes have been fighting more than a hundred years and even if the date of full emancipation is uncertain, what is explicitly certain is that the struggle for it will endure.


In conclusion let me say that Dr. Du Bois’ greatest virtue was his committed empathy with all the oppressed and his divine dissatisfaction with all forms of injustice. Today we are still challenged to be dissatisfied. Let us be dissatisfied until every man can have food and material necessities for his body, culture and education for his mind, freedom and human dignity for his spirit. Let us be dissatisfied until rat-infested, vermin-filled slums will be a thing of a dark past and every family will have a decent sanitary house in which to live. Let us be dissatisfied until the empty stomachs of Mississippi are filled and the idle industries of Appalachia are revitalized. Let us be dissatisfied until brotherhood is no longer a meaningless word at the end of a prayer but the first order of business on every legislative agenda. Let us be dissatisfied until our brother of the Third World — Asia, Africa and Latin America-will no longer be the victim of imperialist exploitation, but will be lifted from the long night of poverty, illiteracy and disease. Let us be dissatisfied until this pending cosmic elegy will be transformed into a creative psalm of peace and “justice will roll down like waters from a mighty stream.”


Five years ago today, on January 15, 2019, the USF Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice published “A Call to Conscience on the 90th Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.:  Joint Statement of the historic gathering of veteran civil rights leaders and current social justice leaders at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands, January 15, 2019.”



Our open letter was signed by a group of surviving members of Dr. King’s SCLC leadership team, SNCC colleagues, and other activists, clergy and historians of the Black Freedom Movement, as well as current faith and activist leaders.  Here are excerpts from our 2019 joint statement:


“Today, as we remember Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we watch in anguish as many achievements toward a more just and equal society we believed were secure are being eviscerated in front of our eyes.  In this hour of constitutional crisis and moral emergency, do we wish to truthfully honor Dr. King’s life and further his legacy?


If we wish to honor Dr. King, we must shake the foundations of our grotesquely unequal social and economic order. “We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values,” he warned us. “We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”


In partnership with the USF Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice, we have come together, we have come together as an intergenerational group of women and men who care deeply about the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. Some of us are surviving members of Dr. King’s team of advisors, deputies, associates; we marched with him, knelt in prayer with him, went to jail together. Some of us worked primarily with Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference; others were among the leadership of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Some of us are historians and scholars of the black freedom movement. Some of us are college students. Many of us work to protect and secure voting rights, and Constitutional rights to a decent education, for all Americans. Some of us lead organizations fighting mass incarceration, gun violence, industrial pollution, and climate change. We come from diverse communities of faith, and we include a number of Baptist and Pentacostal ministers, a Jesuit priest, an American-Muslim community leader, a Conservative rabbi, and a professor of Jewish Studies.


Dr. King’s mission was “to redeem the soul of America.” His life’s work was to hold fast to the Spirit of the Lord and attend to the needs of “the least of these” — to help feed the hungry, provide shelter to the homeless, release the captives, free the oppressed, and to follow the Lord’s commandment to have no other gods before Me. Thus, Dr. King decried the blasphemy and idolatry of Americans who had increasingly come to worship “the false god of nationalism,” a religion that “affirms that each nation is an absolute sovereign unit acknowledging no control, save its own independent will.” He warned us against the prophets and preachers of this false religion, specifically “the advocators of white supremacy, and the America First movements.” To his Christian brothers and sisters, he declared: “One cannot worship this false god of nationalism and the God of Christianity at the same time. The two are incompatible…”


Today we face the gravest danger to democracy and rule of law since 1877, when federal troops withdrew from the former Confederate states, crushing the hopes of former slaves that Reconstruction would bring them equal rights as promised under the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. We believe that the threat of civil unrest and violence is higher today than at any time since the riots and uprisings that followed Dr. King’s assassination more than fifty years ago. If we do not pull our nation back from the brink, find ways to confirm our common humanity in all interactions and communications, and unite in the common struggle to defend the core principles of our democracy, we are at risk of moral, social and national collapse.


With a fierce dedication to nonviolent struggle, we affirm the bonds of friendship and fellowship across generations. We affirm our spiritual lineage with the American movements for civil rights, voting rights, housing rights and economic justice, and the global movements to achieve nuclear disarmament and to end the Vietnam War, in which Dr. King was a leading figure.


It is not possible to recreate the social justice and peace movements of the 1960s to which many of us were dedicated; nor would that be the right path even if we could. We must build a new moral fusion movement on a mass scale by joining together in a nonviolent army for justice and peace, through solidarity with hundreds of magnificent civil rights, human rights and peace organizations and hundreds of thousands of community leaders and grassroots activists across the country.


We dedicate ourselves to this struggle to realize the promise of American democracy on behalf of all of us who live here — We the People — documented and undocumented. And even this is not enough. We must cool a world on fire, and save the planet from destruction, on behalf of our children’s children and their progeny into the future.


Nonviolence is the heart and soul of our movement because we are united in a struggle against violence in all of its forms. Racism, poverty and militarism in all of its forms are violence against the human body and the human spirit. We will not stop until we eradicate the systemic violence inflicted on our brothers and sisters, and all of us, by white supremacy, and the legacy of chattel slavery; the proliferation of guns and opioids into our communities; mass incarceration and militarism at home and abroad; hunger and homelessness in the cities and rural areas of America and throughout the world; environmental degradation and the urgent threat of catastrophic climate change.


Are we still able to hear Dr. King’s trumpet of conscience? Do we have the collective will to reset the course of our society to realize his vision of the Beloved Community?


We have a choice today, and it is the same choice Dr. King identified before his death: “The choice today is no longer between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence.” The existential choice before us has become more urgent today than at any time in our lives since our beloved friend and pastor was assassinated more than fifty years ago.


We cannot repair America and the world with hate, only with love.”


List of signatories

Civil rights movement leaders and historians

Joan Baez, activist and singer.

Taylor Branch, author of Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63.

Minnijean Brown-Trickey, member of the Little Rock Nine and activist for minority rights.

Clayborne Carson, Founder and Director, Martin Luther King, Jr., Research Institute; Editor of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers, and Professor of History, Stanford University.

Rev. Dr. Gerald L. Durley, Chair, Board of Directors, Interfaith Power and Light; Pastor Emeritus Providence Missionary Baptist Church.

Marian Wright Edelman, Founder and President Emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Peter B. Edelman, Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law and Public Policy and Faculty Director, Center on Poverty and Inequality, at Georgetown University Law Center.

Reverend Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr., Founder and President of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

John “J.T.” Johnson, Project Director – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Ground Crew.

Clarence B. Jones, President, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, The Gandhi King Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice, University of San Francisco.

Rev. Dr. Bernard Lafayette, National Board Chairman, Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Janet Moses, M.D.

Robert (Bob) Moses, President, The Algebra Project.

Rev. Dr. C. T. Vivian, President Emeritus, Southern Christian Leadership Conference and
Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Senator Harris Wofford, Special Assistant to President John F. Kennedy for Civil Rights, participant in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march, and U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania.

Ambassador Andrew Young, Jr., pastor, diplomat, U.S. Congressman, Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, Executive Director, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Current social justice activists, clergy and scholars

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, President & Sr. Lecturer of Repairers of the Breach; Co-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival; Bishop with the College of Affirming Bishops and Faith Leaders; Visiting Professor at Union Theological Seminary; and Pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church, Disciples of Christ in Goldsboro, North Carolina.
Alyse Bertenthal, Postdoctoral scholar.
Daniel Blackman, Humanitarian.
May Boeve, Executive Director, 350.org.
Eva Borgwardt, President, J Street U National Student Board and Stanford University student.
Rabbi Sharon Brous, Senior/ Founding Rabbi of IKAR.
LaTosha Brown, Co-Founder, Black Voters Matter Fund.
Natalia Cardona, Justice and Equity Manager, 350.org.
Rev. Paul Fitzgerald, President, University of San Francisco.
David Goodman, Civil Engineer, President of the Andrew Goodman Foundation.
Jonathan D. Greenberg, Executive Director and Co-Founder, The Gandhi King Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice, University of San Francisco.
Usjid Umar Hameed, Public Affairs Coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations Columbus, Ohio; Puffin Democracy Fellow, The Andrew Goodman Foundation.
Lindsay Harper, Executive Director, Georgia WAND Education Fund, Inc.
Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College.
Rev. Zachary Hoover, Executive Director, LA Voice.
Louis Arnold Leonidas Jr., Leadership Development Programme Fellow, The Global Education & Leadership Foundation (tGELF).
Grande Lum, Provost, Menlo College; former Director, Community Relations Service, U.S. Department of Justice.
Clifton Kinnie, Ferguson protester and Howard University student.
Rev. Ben McBride, Founder, The Empower Initiative and Co-Director, PICO California.
Pastor Michael McBride, National Director, Faith in Action’s Urban Strategies and Live Free Campaign.
Maisha Moses, Executive Director, Young People’s Project.
Zachary Norris, Executive Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.
Ai-jen Poo, Director, National Domestic Workers Alliance and Co-Director, Caring Across Generations.
Valencia Richardson, Georgetown Law student and Puffin Democracy Fellow for the Andrew Goodman Foundation.
Margaret Russell, Professor, Santa Clara University School of Law.
Lateefah Simon, President, Akonadi Foundation.
Andrea McEvoy Spero, Professor, University of San Francisco.
Bryan Stevenson, founder and Executive Director, Equal Justice Initiative
Daniela A. Tagtachian, Attorney, Lecturer, and Mysun Foundation Fellow at the University of Miami School of Law Environmental Justice Clinic.
The Reverend Raphael B. Warnock, Ph.D., Senior Pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia.
Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics at the University


So imagine Dr. King, blessed with longevity, alive at 95 today.


Imagine Fannie Lou Hamer with us.  Imagine Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman, W.E.B. Du Bois, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Ella Baker, Bob Moses, all with us today.


In this hour of fierce urgency, when the very existence of our democracy is under severe threat, in a world where war and atrocity destroy countless innocent lives, in a country overwhelmed by gun violence, on a planet pressed to the limit of sustainable life, we can imagine what they would say to us, what they would ask us to remember.


We can imagine what would they would urge us to do.


So let’s go out and do it.


Jonathan D. Greenberg