Martin Luther King's nonviolent civil rights efforts still inspire
around the world
Coretta Scott King receives a stamp honoring her late husband, from
India communication minister Ram Sultheg Singh, in New Delhi in
By Emily Wax, Published: August 23
During the protests this spring in Egypt, a civil-rights-era comic
book weaving the tale of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s nonviolent
resistance movement found a fresh audience with the young protesters
who packed Cairo's Tahrir Square.
The comic book, which promotes peaceful civil disobedience, is called
"Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story" and was translated into
Arabic and Farsi by the non-religious American Islamic Congress. It
published 2,500 copies, and young people in the Arab world started
using them to teach peaceful forms of protest that King championed,
such as sit-ins and boycotts.
Workers at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial cleaned and prepared
the new monument for its official dedication, which will take place on
Aug. 28. Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend the event,
and President Obama is scheduled to speak at the ceremony on the Mall.
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In Japan, King's birthday is celebrated in Hiroshima and honored with
a special banquet. His message of peace resonates in the city, which
was the first to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon.
Around the globe, King's message is still used by liberation leaders.
There's a forest in his honor in Israel, a school named after him in
Yaounde, Cameroon, and an MLK bridge in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
In the 1980s, a social movement to advance worker rights in Poland
used the award-winning documentary "From Montgomery to Memphis" as a
training guide for its nonviolent resistance. In China's Tiananmen
Square, student leaders held up signs that read "We Shall Overcome," a
key anthem of the civil rights movement. Many protest leaders said
they had studied the civil rights leader's nonviolence techniques.
"They were singing 'We Shall Overcome' in Czechoslovakia and Romania,"
said Steve Klein, communications coordinator at the King Center in
Atlanta. "Even Nelson Mandela referenced Dr. King the day he won the
South African election, and he invoked King's use of the old Negro
spiritual lyrics 'free at last.' "
In India, Dalits, who were formerly known as "untouchables" and who
rank lowest in the country's caste system, have modeled their freedom
struggle after King. They particularly found power in his "I Have a
Dream" speech and watched televisions set up in markets in Dalit
villages and urban slums.
In India, Dalit activist B.R. Ambedkar led more than 500,000 Dalits to
leave Hinduism and its caste system and convert to Buddhism, just as
some African Americans have moved to Islam.
"Like Dalits, African Americans in the U.S. faced discrimination in
religious centers, public transport, schools and jobs," said Chandra
Bhan Prasad, a Dalit scholar and writer. "Ambedkar was always inspired
by MLK and the black movement in the U.S."
There are dozens of streets and boulevards named after King: in
Terranova, Italy; Niamey, Niger; Kolkata, India; Dakar, Senegal;
Martinique; Tel Aviv; Porto Alegre, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and
Recife, Brazil; and Brussels.
"Dr. King is everywhere. There are so many places that we can't keep
track. But it doesn't surprise me at all," Klein said. "King was
liberating an oppressed minority, and in doing so he really showed the
world that principles of nonviolence can be successful."
Staff researcher Eddy Palanzo and correspondent Rama Lakshmi in New
Delhi contributed to this report.
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