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MLK, Civil Rights, and Travel

January 20th, 2013 · 6 Brilliant Opinions · Random Things That Make Me Smile

The NY Times Travel Show was held this weekend, right before the MLK holiday and the second inauguration of President Barack Obama.  On a weekend dedicated to national service, I felt like a bit of a slug doing something travel related.  Did Dr. King march and die for me to go to Morocco or take the Disney cruise?

Most Americans know that Dr. King was born on January 15, 1929.  He was assassinated on April 4, 1968.  It still gives me pause to realize that he died when he was 39 years old and a father of four.   Dr. King recounts in Letter From Birmingham Jail,  the difficulty in explaining to his young daughter why she could not go to a local amusement park – Funtown – because it was white only.

MLK discussing "Funtown" with Yolanda

MLK discussing “Funtown” with Yolanda (James Karales via Time.com)

…when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cannot go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos, “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; 

For some travel (and travel blogging) for that matter may seem frivolous, bougie, and just plain not important.  To me, travel is part of that unalienable pursuit of happiness.  Because of men and women like Martin Luther King Jr., a world of opportunity opened up to me and millions of post-civil rights babies.

Today, I want to remember MLK, not only as the fiery civil rights leader but as the father who wanted his children to have the opportunity to have fun, go across the country and sleep in America’s hotels.  Today I’m remembering MLK as a dad. Forever thirty-nine.




Please drop me a line in the comments section to let me know how you’re spending your Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. (To see other photos of Dr. King with his family, visit the gallery at Time.com)


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6 Comments so far ↓

  • Selfish Mom

    I love your perspective. I’ve never really known Dr. King as anything other than a tragic, almost mythical figure. I like thinking of him as a dad.

    I’ll be spending tomorrow at the rally for gun control.

  • Ann

    I had planned on going to the inauguration but the kids were sick and that derailed everything. We will be at the gun control rally that starts in Brooklyn and ends at City Hall. Dr. King always seemed larger than life in our home when I was growing up. My mom that picture of John and Bobby Kennedy with Martin Luther King Jr. (that I swear was in every black person’s home in the 70s).
    BTW, did you know the ages of Dr.King’s children when he died? Yolanda 12. MLK III 10, Dexter 7 and Bernice 5. Just babies. God Bless the King family. Always.

  • Molley Mills

    Wow, what an interesting perspective. He made the world a better place for all children during his short life. It’s such a shame that his own children had to lose him so early in their lives.

  • Ann

    Molley – Its funny – every year I discuss this with Big P. We both can’t believe he was only 39 at the time of his death. But this was a man who started college at age 15. My own father and Dr. King would have turned 84 this year.

  • Juli S.

    I sort of held the image of Dr. King as Amy did, a mythical figure. I knew about him in a broad sense but not personal, intimate, and relateable, which I know may sound ignorant to the intellectuals.

    This spoke to me as I honestly admit to not doing anything of service today:

    “…when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society”

    After taking some personal loses in the last 2 years my thoughts of race, class, socioeconomic status, perceptions, and realities have been challenged. I often wonder what should the new face of service look like that Dr. King began.

    I bring this point up in reference to perspective, equality, and personal freedom and rights: wine, water, travel I really get this-For some travel (and travel blogging) for that matter may seem frivolous, bougie, and just plain not important.

    We’ve come a long way. How do we get to the level we would possibly be at now if he were still alive? Maybe I can too start looking at him as a dad first to get some answers.

  • Ann

    Hi Juli – Thanks for your comment. I had a conversation with Big P last nite about King and his legacy. He mentioned some “flaws”, rumors of infidelity and children sired (wow, did I use that word, out of wedlock). Well, King was a man. A husband, a father, and alas like all of us “perfectly imperfect.”
    I feel so indebted to King and the legions of civil rights activists who made it possible just for me to BREATHE, to be my own SELF – whether it be lofty or frivolous in nature.
    When we humanize King, we humanize ourselves and recognize our own depth. Sometimes we are serious, or funny or frivolous or mad. Sometimes we are angry, political and proud.
    I am happy for myself and my kids today. Happy that we did not have to endure slavery, reconstruction and segregation. And I am sad for the King children who did not get the chance to reach adulthood under the guiding hand of their father.

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