During the less than 13 years of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership of the modern American Civil Rights Movement, from December, 1955 until April 4, 1968, African Americans achieved more genuine progress toward racial equality in America than the previous 350 years had produced. Dr. King is widely regarded as America’s preeminent advocate of nonviolence and one of the greatest nonviolent leaders in world history.

Drawing inspiration from both his Christian faith and the peaceful teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King led a nonviolent movement in the late 1950’s and ‘60s to achieve legal equality for African-Americans in the United States. While others were advocating for freedom by “any means necessary,” including violence, Martin Luther King, Jr. used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance, such as protests, grassroots organizing, and civil disobedience to achieve seemingly-

During the less than 13 years of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership of the modern American Civil Rights Movement, from December, 1955 until April 4, 1968, African Americans achieved more genuine progress toward racial equality in America than the previous 350 years had produced. Dr. King is widely regarded as America’s preeminent advocate of nonviolence and one of the greatest nonviolent leaders in world history.

Drawing inspiration from both his Christian faith and the peaceful teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King led a nonviolent movement in the late 1950’s and ‘60s to achieve legal equality for African-Americans in the United States. While others were advocating for freedom by “any means necessary,” including violence, Martin Luther King, Jr. used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance, such as protests, grassroots organizing, and civil disobedience to achieve seemingly-

impossible goals. He went on to lead similar campaigns against poverty and international conflict, always maintaining fidelity to his principles that men and women everywhere, regardless of color or creed, are equal members of the human family.

Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Nobel Peace Prize lecture and “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” are among the most revered orations and writings in the English language. His accomplishments are now taught to American children of all races, and his teachings are studied by scholars and students worldwide. He is the only non-president to have a national holiday dedicated in his honor, and is the only non-president memorialized on the Great Mall in the nation’s capital. He is memorialized in hundreds of statues, parks, streets, squares, churches and other public facilities around the world as a leader whose teachings are increasingly-relevant to the progress of humankind.

The Story of Martin Luther King Jr. in Canada

The Massey Lectures are an annual five-part series of lectures on a political, cultural or philosophical topic given in Canada by a noted scholar. They were created in 1961 to honour Vincent Massey, Governor General of Canada. The purpose is to "enable distinguished authorities to communicate the results of original study on important subjects of contemporary interest.One of the most famous lectures was done by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1967. It was broadcasted by the CBC under the title of Conscience for Change which was a book of transcribed lectures written by King. In it, Martin Luther King Jr. writes:

“Heaven was the word for Canada."

"Canada is not merely a neighbor to Negroes.  Deep in our history of struggle for freedom Canada was the North Star.  The Negro slave, denied education, de-humanized, imprisoned on cruel plantations, knew that far to the north a land existed where a fugitive slave if he survived the horrors of the journey could find freedom. The legendary Underground Railroad started in the south and ended in Canada.  The freedom road links us together.  Our spirituals, now so widely admired around the world, were often codes.  We sang of "heaven" that awaited us and the slave masters listened in innocence, not realizing that we were not speaking of the hereafter.  Heaven was the word for Canada and the Negro sang of the hope that his escape on the Underground Railroad would carry him there. One of our spirituals, Follow the Drinking Gourd, in its disguised lyrics contained directions for escape.  The gourd was the

big dipper, and the North Star to which its handle pointed gave the celestial map that directed the flight to the Canadian border. So standing today in Canada I am linked with the history of my people and its unity with your past."

This speech highlighted a milestone in race relations as Canada had prided itself as inclusive and a safe haven for those in need. It has been 50 years since this speech was given by King in Canada, and as far as our nation has come, there is still further to go. Dr. King spoke of ‘the fierce urgency of now.’ Canada has an important role to play in the humanitarian and civil rights movement.

The speech by Dr. King in Toronto was delivered only 3 months before his death. Toronto has evolved into a fusion of many cultures around the globe and is considered a model city worldwide. It is important to celebrate our milestones, while dreaming of a bright future. Martin Luther King Jr. was a difference maker, and as we celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary this year, we know this country can be too.