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Continuing the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

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Continuing the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

The King family paying homage to Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King next to their tombs.

The King family paying homage to Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King next to their tombs.

Image Courtesy of Time Magazine

The King family paying homage to Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King next to their tombs.

Image Courtesy of Time Magazine

Image Courtesy of Time Magazine

The King family paying homage to Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King next to their tombs.

Michael Finnen, Staff Writer

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April 4, 1968. It has been slightly over 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr. was shot dead by an assassin in Memphis at the age of 39. King is undoubtedly one of the most famous and influential figures of the 20th century in terms of Civil Rights, right up there with the person who inspired him, Gandhi. King’s story of civil disobedience through nonviolence is truly spectacular. However, this article is not about King himself. Rather, it is about his children, his 4 children who he fathered with Coretta Scott King, his wife. Despite living in the shadow of an amazing man, King’s four children continue to live out what he taught and preached throughout his life, even to this very day.

Martin Luther King Jr. had four children, Yolanda King, Martin Luther King III, Dexter King, and Bernice King. Each one of their childhoods must have been hard at times, not only because they didn’t have their father around, but also for the fact that their father was someone like Martin Luther King Jr. Living in the shadow of someone so famous, it must be truly hard to become your own person, but these 4 have truly been able to do so. These are their stories:

Yolanda King was King’s oldest child and the only one who is no longer alive. Being the oldest, at 12 years of age when her father was killed, it is natural that she perhaps had the hardest early life of all. She still lived in the South, and was often bullied because of her father, and also had threats made on her life designed to intimidate her and her parents. However, she still grew into an adult much like her father and became a supporter of gay and LGBT rights. She even spoke of James Earl Ray, the man who killed her father, stating that she did not hate him.

Martin Luther King III has become a human rights activist in his adult life. Carrying the very name of his father, King III certainly had a lot of pressure on him as a child. However, King III eventually became the president of the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) the very organization his father founded. He still speaks today about what his father called the “triple evils”, those being poverty, racism, and militarism.

Dexter King was only seven when his father was murdered. He and his siblings, despite having no father to make money for the family, were able to all be educated thanks to a trust fund set up for them prior to King’s death. He has served as the president of “The King Center for Nonviolent Social Change”, an organization focused on teaching the principles of nonviolence and philosophy which Martin Luther King Jr. himself followed. While he is no longer the current head, he was a large proponent in the teaching of his father’s legacy, suggesting that his father should not just be regarded as a “dreamer” but as a truly important social critic and reformer. He is a dedicated vegan and animal rights activist.

Last of all, Bernice King is the current head of “The King Center”, and perhaps, was the one who had the most trouble growing up in her father’s shadow. At five years old when her father died, she may not have known him as well as the other children. For much of her life, despite hearing the many accomplishments of her father, she did not study much about him, instead, she found her own way and became her own person. Everything she adopted from her father in her later life has now become truly genuine. Bernice especially has embraced her father’s vision of nonviolence, trying to teach it as a lifestyle, even speaking in many schools through “The King Center”.

What is so truly amazing about each one of these children is that although they have continued their father’s legacy, they are all still their own people. One example being Martin Luther King III, who has recently stated that his father may have viewed the government shutdown as inhumane, but he still goes about preaching his father’s legacy in his own way, notably teaching to his daughter, MLK’s only grandchild, the values which he learned from his father. At age nine, she was already speaking in front of many about her grandfather, even coming up with her own speech against gun violence having heard the speech by her grandfather. They have not become carbon copies of Martin Luther King Jr, but instead, they are all their own individuals who have lived their own lives, while still respecting the immense legacy of their father which they all carry on their shoulders.

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Michael Finnen, Staff Writer

Hey there, my name is Michael Finnen. Created in a laboratory several years ago, I am a part of the class of 2020. I am a very big history buff, I play...

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