Guest column/King played key role in civil rights movement

In January, we marked the anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther King Jr., a proud, but loving and kind, civil rights activist who fought for equal justice under the law for all men, women, boys and girls.

Slavery began in 1619, and in 1865 the 13th Amendment was passed, abolishing the practice throughout the United States and its territories.

The modern day civil rights movement began in the 1950s, when the late Rosa Parks, along with the Montgomery, Ala., NAACP, petitioned King, who was living in Atlanta and was then the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, because Parks had been jailed in 1955 for refusing to sit in the back of a city bus.

MLK Jr. had not been heard of until the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was formed by a group of black ministers, including Ralph Abernathy and Fred Shuttlesworth of Atlanta.

King, along with other members of the conference, traveled to Montgomery. They carried out the plan of boycotting the buses. No one rode the buses — they walked. The African-Americans marched, sang their praise songs and prayed continuously, and God finally broke the ice of discrimination. With steadfastness, determination and consistent love for each other, especially their — our — children, God answered our prayers through Martin Luther King Jr.

Colored, Negro, black or African-Americans, we have weathered the storm. But, we are continuing to go through this to get to that. The killing and murders of our young people and children in our schools and churches is devastating. No one should have to go through that. However, we have a great history, from 1619, of not being allowed to learn how to read or write. We are now school teachers, attorneys, members of legislatures, senators, mayors, members of the Supreme Court — and even president of the United States.

We fought Jim Crow when the civil rights legislation was passed in 1964, and the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. And recently — proudly — Melody Stewart of Cleveland was sworn in as the first black female to be elected to the Ohio Supreme Court. We are godly people who are proud of our accomplishments.

I am, and always have been, very proud to be an African-American in this day and age. Throughout the toils and snares, I could never be any prouder.

We must, however, remember that the struggle continues.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, keep us forever in our hearts, we pray.

(Wiggins, a resident of Steubenville, is the president of the Ohio Valley Black Caucus.)

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