On March 22, 1956, the 27-year-old Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was having a horrible day. He’d just been convicted for his role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and sentenced to pay $1,000 or spend 386 days in jail. After the ruling and motion to appeal, he walked out of the courthouse a temporarily free man, but his spirit was shaken.
All of a sudden, his wife Coretta rushed at him, threw her arms around him, and kissed him in front of about 300 people who’d gathered outside. The biggest smile ever captured on King swept across his face, and his eyes lifted to the heavens with the giddiness of a young man in love.
In the photo that caught this moment, we see a side of him that sometimes gets lost in our remembrances. For all the important things that Dr. King would go on to do in his life, that day he was just a regular young man whose rough day was made better by a little sugar from the one he loved.
Remembering King as a man, not just a legend
Today, the nation pauses for a moment to pay homage to the legacy of Dr. King. During his less than fifteen years in the national spotlight, he became the voice and embodiment of the Civil Rights Movement in America. Our perception of him is deeply influenced by the iconic pictures and films of King delivering powerful speeches, leading marches in the Deep South, and with his hand outstretched towards the sea of people at the 1963 March on Washington.
These many images and the society-shifting changes that his efforts helped bring about have elevated him to a heroic status with a larger-than-life character. This deification pushed him into a place in our memories that sometimes feels beyond our reach of comprehension as fellow mortals. Continue reading