Honoring the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


History | MLK and Environmental Justice | March on Washington | What Brands Can Do for MLK Day 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is considered the formative figure in the modern fight for civil rights, and his legacy looms large in the work of all those who follow him in his cause.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s History

MLK Day - Black History Month - Martin Luther King Jr.Dr. King was born in Atlanta, GA in 1929. During his time in Atlanta, King graduated at the top of his class from Morehouse College and moved on to Boston University where he earned his Ph.D. in systematic theology. In June 1953, King married Coretta Scott, and in 1954, followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a pastor for the Drexel Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL. Dr. King went on to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott, founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and became one of the national leaders of the growing civil rights movement. Read more.

Dr. King and the NAACP:

On December 1, 1955, barely a year after King’s arrival to Montgomery, AL, the secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP refused to move from her seat in the front of the bus. Rosa Parks was arrested and sent to jail, but her act of defiance inspired the burgeoning civil rights movement in Montgomery. The Montgomery Improvement Association was formed with the NAACP Executive Committee and officers of the Montgomery NAACP, which had at that point been banned in the state. The Association led a boycott of the bus system, and King, already a member of the NAACP’s executive committee, was chosen as its leader.

Dr. King’s involvement with the NAACP dates back to his position on the executive committee of the NAACP Montgomery Branch in the 1950s, through his leadership in the various boycotts, marches, and rallies of the 1960s, and up until his assassination in 1968. In 1957, the NAACP awarded him the Spingarn Medal, its most prestigious honor. Read more.

March on Washington

MLK March on Washington - NAACP One Million Jobs CampaignOn August 28, 1963, about a quarter-million people participated in the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom gathering near the Lincoln Memorial. More than 3,000 members of the press covered this historic march, in which Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the exalted “I Have a Dream” speech.

Originally conceived by renowned labor leader A. Phillip Randolph and Roy Wilkins, Executive Secretary of the NAACP, the March on Washington evolved into a collaborative effort amongst major civil rights groups and icons of the day.

Stemming from a rapidly growing tide of grassroots support and outrage over the nation’s racial inequities, the rally drew over 260,000 people from across the nation. Read more.

Dr. King’s Commitment to Environmental Justice

MLK Day - Black History Month - Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. King fought on many fronts including environmental justice. He had a hand in organizing the Sanitation Workers Strike as part of his 1968 Poor People’s Campaign—a campaign targeted to highlight the correlation between systemic racism and the unhealthy environmental conditions suffered by poor black sanitation workers.

Jeremy Orr, Environmental and Climate Justice (ECJ) Chair for the NAACP Michigan State Area Conference, recalls how he continues Dr. King’s legacy for environmental justice. Read more.

What Brands Can Do for MLK Day

As we head into Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month, those committed to dismantling racism, those pushing for change, and those advocating for justice will be looking for ways to demonstrate their commitment to advancing a more equal society.

In addition to participating in the MLK Day of Service on Jan. 18, brands can:

  • Sign the Equal Pay Pledge to ensure all employees get equal pay for equal work by December 2021
  • Take a year around approach to embracing the spirit of MLK Day and Black History Month
  • Publish a progress report on June 2020 stated actions by June 2021
  • Join the One Million Jobs Campaign
  • Fund support for diversity and inclusion leads within your organization
  • Provide sustaining support to local social justice organization
  • Become a Corporate Member of your local NAACP
  • Source more diverse candidates by adding to the NAACP Job Board

Keeping the Dream Alive

Each day, fueled by our supporters, NAACP is doing its part in the fight to right the wrongs that remain. Many of us will be participating in activities and events that honor Dr. King.



Related speeches by Dr. King:

Additional Publications: