As most are already well aware of, Monday is a federal holiday. But there’s a lot more to Martin Luther King Day than just a day off from school.
While Bryan County doesn’t currently offer any specific events in honor of King, Pembroke resident Dave Williams said that might change next year.
"I wanted to try and plan a Martin Luther King parade for this year but there just wasn’t enough time to get it all together," Williams said. "But I’ve talked with (Mayor) Judy Cook and hopefully we can do it next year."
In the meantime, Savannah hosts the nation’s third largest King parade and there are a number of other parades in surrounding counties.
"We should remember that this is a day that we can be thankful – thankful for the rights that we have and thankful for the things that Martin Luther King did for us," Williams said. "If it hadn’t been for his efforts, we might not have Barack Obama running for president. In fact, it’s not even a ‘might’ – we wouldn’t have him running. That alone shows us where we have come from."
While Williams said we’ve come a long way, he said there’s still a long road ahead.
"We need to continue to strive to keep the rights we’ve gained, but also try to make this country a country of equality – of everyone," he said.
Richmond Hill resident Donald Singleton grew up during the civil rights movement.
"I actually spent time in jail during the civil rights movement because I was involved in sit-ins and walk-ins, demonstrations and marches in Savannah," he said. "I think Dr. King had one thing in mind. He wanted the powers that be, in the government, to live up to the constitution."
Singleton agreed with Williams, pointing out ‘we haven’t made it yet.’
"We’ve still got a long ways to go. A lot of people think he was only looking out for black people but he was looking out for everybody. He was a civil rights leader and a worker," Singleton said. "He was doing this for everyone - including the poor, women and especially black women, those who were handicapped – all benefited from his work. Whoever the government was doing wrong, he was trying to right the wrong."
Singleton said he served time in the Army and in February 1968, came back from Vietnam. On April 4, King was assassinated.
"I was stationed in North Carolina at the time and when he was killed, we were on an alert to go to the riot in Washington, D.C. My whole unit had to go to Washington and we loaded up on tanks, jeeps, guns, the whole nine yards, to go help control to the riots," he said.
"When we flew into Washington, everything was on fire," Singleton continued. "Just a few months before, I was in Vietnam fighting my enemy and on that day, there I was in Washington fighting my own brothers and sisters of this country."
Singleton said more people should take an interest in Martin Luther King Day because, according to him, King made a different not only in this country, but around the world.
"He was nonviolent; he didn’t mind suffering in order to get the country to do the right thing. He was arrested dozens of times, his home was bombed, he got beat up, he got stabbed and ultimately, he was killed," he said.
King was born Jan. 15, 1929. He attended segregated public schools in Georgia and graduated from high school at the age of 15. He received a BA in 1948 from Morehouse College, the same institution his father and grandfather had graduated from. He studied for three years at the Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, where he was elected president of a predominantly white senior class, and received his doctorate from Boston University in 1955.
Always a strong defender for civil rights, King was a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. After his first major boycott, which lasted through all of 1956, the Supreme Court of the United States declared the laws requiring segregation on buses unconstitutional.
From 1957 to 1968, King traveled more than six million miles and spoke over 2,500 times to a variety of audiences.
"(He appeared) wherever there was injustice, protest, and action; and meanwhile he wrote five books as well as numerous articles…he became not only the symbolic leader of American blacks but also a world figure," the Nobel Peace Prize site said.
At the age of 35, he was the youngest man ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and after learning he had been selected, he turned the prize money - of more than $50,000 - over to helping further the civil rights movement.