The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. impacted generations of Americans with his eloquent, nonviolent and unyielding demand for equality. It’s no surprise that many of us have memories of MLK, whether we were lucky enough to interact with him personally or simply admired his work from afar. Below are the memories and impressions a few luminaries had of the great civil rights leader. What are your MLK memories?
“Let the strivings of us all, prove Martin Luther King Jr. to have been correct, when he said that humanity can no longer be tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war. Let the efforts of us all, prove that he was not a mere dreamer when he spoke of the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace being more precious than diamonds or silver or gold. Let a new age dawn!”Nelson Mandela, civil rights leader who worked to end apartheid in South Africa
“We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization—Black people amongst Blacks, and White amongst Whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion and love…. What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be White or whether they be Black.”Robert F. Kennedy, American presidential candidate murdered months after Dr. King
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream was a manifestation of hope that humanity might one day get out of its own way by finding the courage to realize that love and nonviolence are not indicators of weakness but gifts of significant strength.”Aberjhani, American writer and historian
“We can’t answer King’s assassination with violence. That would be the worst tribute we could pay him.”Sammy Davis Jr., American entertainer
“It didn’t hit home, he said, until I saw what they did to Martin Luther King and the other protesters. And that’s why segregation survived so long, my dad said. Not just because there was racism, but because there were people who were not racist and still didn’t ask, ‘Why are people kept apart because of color?’ The same people who never asked, ‘Why isn’t Satchel Paige pitching for the White Yankees?’ or never asked, ‘Why aren’t there any Black people living in this neighborhood out here in the suburbs?’ My dad looked at me and said, ‘Getting people to ask that, that’s what Martin Luther King did for this country, and for me.’”Keith Olbermann, American broadcaster
“When you are talking about Dr. King’s speech at the March on Washington, you’re talking about one of the maybe five greatest speeches in American history. And the words that he spoke at that particular moment, with so much at stake, and the way in which he captured the hopes and dreams of an entire generation I think is unmatched.”Barack Obama, former president of the United States
“Just as I’m getting seated and getting ready to turn to the other celebrities, one of the promoters walked up from behind and said ‘Miss Nichols, sorry to bother you’, I said ‘no problem’, and he said ‘well there’s someone who wants to meet you, and he says he’s your greatest fan.’ And I’m smiling and I say ‘of course’ and I’m getting up to turn and say ‘where is he?’ and he says ‘right over here.’ And I’m thinking it’s a Trekker, you know, maybe it’s a child, maybe a little man—someone that just wants to congratulate me.
“And so, delighted, I turn, and I see this man across the room with this brilliant smile—which you didn’t often see on his face. And I remember thinking to myself ‘whoever this little Trekker is, they’re going to have to wait, because this is my leader’—Dr. Martin Luther King walking towards me with a smile on his face. And I never met the man, you know, this like I’m starting to tremble.
“And he walks to me with this smile—and puts his hand on my shoulder and says, ‘Miss Nichols, I am your greatest fan.’ I thought—‘what an incredible moment.’ I just, was flabbergasted. And he begins to speak about my role on television, and the power of Star Trek, and how important it is.
“In the meantime, for the first time in my life, I had no words to say. I could speak anyway, I’m shaking in front of this man. And he is saying how important Star Trek is to the future. That this man who has written this, who has produced this, has seen the future—and we are there, because you are there.
“He said ‘you have one of the most important roles. This is a first. It’s non-stereotypical, it’s brilliance, it’s beauty, and it’s intelligence. And you do it with warmth and grace.’”Nichelle Nichols, American actress who starred in the original “Star Trek” series