Today is the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., a figure who needs no introduction. Fifty-five years since his famous speech, we are continuing to move towards King’s dream of “a nation where [we] will not be judged by the colour of [our] skin but by the content of [our] character.”
It isn’t just the speech that makes King stand out, however. In addition to being a powerful speaker, King was a champion of nonviolent activism. Tactics such as sit-ins sought to capture the public’s attention and force them to be aware of the discrimination occurring in racially-segregated restaurants. One of the strengths of a non-violent approach is that any retaliatory action on the government’s part just makes the protestors easier to support – they appear as underdogs suffering under the iron fist of big brother. Perhaps the best summary of nonviolent activism is simply Marc Riboud’s photograph of an anti-war protestor offering a flower to a soldier.