ABHMS honors Dr. Martin Luther King’s Day

Civil Rights March on Washington, August 28, 1963. Photo by Unseen Histories on Unsplash.

VALLEY FORGE, PA (01/14/2024) – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

A Baptist minister, activist, and political philosopher, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the most important figure in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Dr. King, a Black church leader and the son of pioneering civil rights activist and minister Martin Luther King Sr., engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience and resistance to fight against Jim Crow laws and other forms of discrimination in the US, thereby advancing civil rights for African Americans.

A graduate of Morehouse College and Crozier Theological Seminary, Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 14, 1964, for using nonviolent resistance to fight racial inequality. That same year, he was the first recipient of the American Baptist Churches’ Edwin T. Dahlberg Peace and Justice Award.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, crucial legislative victories for the civil rights movement, ended segregation in public places and employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, and banned barriers to Black voting, and housing segregation.

This January 15, Dr. King would be 95 years old.

Different Baptist denominations played an important role in Dr. King’s life. Initially affiliated with the National Baptist Convention, he left it to join the Progressive National Baptist Convention in 1961. The PNBC, a denomination focused on civil rights and social justice, fights today for full voter registration, education and participation in society, economic empowerment and development, and the realization of universal human rights and total human liberation for all people. In 1962, Dr. King wrote to the executive secretary of the American Baptist Home Mission Societies, Dr. William H. Rhodes, announcing that his church, Ebenezer Baptist, along with West Hunter Baptist Church, had voted to join American Baptist Churches USA, “because of our awareness of the great work that your Convention is doing for Kingdom building, and our strong conviction concerning an integrated church.” Both churches were voted in in May that year.

At American Baptist Home Missions Societies, his legacy lives on.

On April 13, 2023, Dr. Jeffrey Haggray, ABHMS’ executive director and CEO of Judson Press, was inducted into the Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Preachers at the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

“This acknowledgment means much to me because, from my childhood, Dr. King was one of my role models,” Dr. Haggray said. “As I reflect on my commitment to preaching the gospel of liberation, wholeness, healing and justice for 42 years, in addition to serving others, this recognition from my peers, bearing the imprimatur of both Dr. King—a native Georgian and Baptist minister—and Morehouse College—one of America’s foremost HBCUs [historically black colleges and universities]—affirms my spirit and encourages my soul in a very deep place.”

Today, we remember Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his prophetic voice. We also call for this day to be a day of reflection on the immense achievements of the civil rights movement, as well as what still needs to be done until all people are free. In Dr. King’s words calling us to do good, “The time is always right to do what is right.”