His imprint on the world is indelible.

In life, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a poet-warrior-priest who led and inspired a movement. Armed with the cotton-covered mallet of non-violence, he led a multi-ethnic army of soldiers in a battle against the evils of injustice and inequality. For that cause he gave up family and personal time, for that he was vilified and pilloried, for that he gave his life.

In death, Dr. King’s legacy lives on, prompting generations of activists to seek an end to disproportionate Black unemployment, equal access to health care and a sound education, the just administration of the law and other matters of parity. And he has inspired leaders of all races to pursue a vision of change.

In honor of his memory and in commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, AFRO staff members share their memories of the civil rights giant: how he inspired and transformed their lives, where and how they learned about his death and what his legacy means to them.


As I think of Dr. King I can’t help but recognize his legacy and what he meant to my parents’ generation.

My parents were both born and raised in North Carolina during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Whenever we’d go back to visit my dad would show me the old movie theater, where they’d have to sneak in the back and sit in the seats in the balcony because they had the worst views.

My mother showed me the one-classroom school, with dirt floors, that she attended as a young child because there was no integration of the schools.

Both buildings are still standing today, but it’s a testament to Dr. King’s activism that both parents lived long enough to be able to walk through the front door of the theater and see integration of schools in Person and Caswell County, N.C.

It’s one thing to read about Dr. King’s impact. However, it is an entirely different experience when you can feel and touch it for yourself. Those experiences provided a framework for how my parents raised my two sisters and I and, therefore, I feel someway more connected than many people my age, especially ones whose families have lived in the North for quite some time.

My mother is no longer with us so I got very emotional the night President Obama won the election. Not because a Black man was elected president, but because I just imagined the conversation we would’ve had that night about how her experiences growing up would’ve led her to believe a night like that was impossible.

I thank Dr. King for giving me that moment.
George Barnette, 29, Staff Writer

I learned of Dr. King’s death when my mother, aunt and I were shopping at the Giant on Baltimore’s Minnesota Avenue (which is no longer there) for groceries, some of which were for my grandparents. My aunt had gone to get her car while my mother finished checking out. Outside waiting, as my aunt was coming to pick us up, we saw her car suddenly hit the curb, then straighten up. My mother and I were wondering what was wrong with her. When she pulled up and we opened the car door, she told us she had just heard on the radio Dr. King had been killed. We rode to my grandparent’s in utter shock. I can’t even remember if they had already heard the news by the time we arrived or if we had to break it to them.

As a child it was difficult to understand the full impact of that moment. As an adult, I believe that although there were many who fought the fight and paved the way for equality before, during and after Dr. King’s time, he was to me the greatest catalyst for change in this country. People, especially African Americans, were ready for change. I don’t think he could have achieved what he did if that wasn’t the case, but he was the galvanizing force. A man of vision, wisdom, of course, faith and great courage…I will always admire him.
Denise Dorsey, 50+, Production Manager

I was a high school senior when Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. I never really came to terms with the fact that this non-violent leader was violently murdered.  Dr. King’s murder invoked rage across the nation and in my own community. I remember seeing National Guardsmen with rifles, stationed every 10 feet, as I traveled down Baltimore’s Pennsylvania Avenue on my way to church. It is ironic that violent protests occurred after Dr. King’s death even though his life focused on non-violent and peaceful demonstrations. For me, the struggle he lead in life seemed distant and far away, but in death the struggle became real and close-up. As I grew older, I was able to fully appreciate the non-violent manner in which he waged the struggle for civil and human rights.
Daniel C. Moore Sr., 60, Archive Technician

I was a toddler at the height of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s career and only five at the time of his assassination. I have no memory of hearing him speak or of his assassination. I have no memories of King when he was alive.

But thankfully he was a prolific writer and speaker and because of it, he lives for me.
Rev. Dr. King was a visionary and a strategist. He knew his vision was lofty and, during the time he embarked on it, well out of reach of his contemporaries. But he knew that he was responsible for trying to lead people there. He was clear no lasting change or movement towards his vision of a world of equals – with people judged by the content of their character – could come through violent protest. So strategically – with his words, speeches, sermons, writings and public organizing – King shaped public perception and delivered messages of chastisement, guidance, reflection and hope to the entire world.

King’s words have shaped the lives of many and through them, his vision lives on. His thoughts on poverty guide my thinking and actions. His passion for non-violence is the foundation for my belief that all conflicts have a non-violent solution if you are willing to look long enough and work hard enough to find it.
Talibah Chikwendu, 47, Executive Editor

Dr. King represents to me the justice and equality that we as Black Americans have sought over the many years; for he led this powerful movement that impacted all citizens of the United States.

My fondest memories of Dr. King relate to his extraordinary ability to articulate his words during his speeches and made me want to emulate him in some small manner. As I have read his written words, I have been motivated to climb every mountain, challenge every barrier that had been put before me to reach my goals in life. And when we heard about the assassination of Dr. King, a group of us students were in the Jackson State University Student Union and we all begin to cry, trying to figure how this could happen…there were no answers. A small demonstration erupted on campus; I was a willing participant. The pain of the loss of Dr. King continues to give us hope for the future. 
Edgar Brookins, 63, Washington Office Manager

I’ve always equated Dr. King’s name with peace, kindness and spirituality. Although he died decades before my birth, his powerful philosophies racial equality, nonviolence, ending economic disparities resonated with me as a child and even more so as an adult.

I hope to emulate Dr. King’s selfless lifestyle and dedication to assisting the less fortunate throughout my 20s and beyond.
Kristin Gray, 26, Managing Editor

It was a Thursday – a little before 7 p.m. – that