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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Dream for Humanity

Published 01/14/2022

Each year, the United States celebrates the life and legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the third Monday in January. (Dr. King was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia.)

He devoted his life to ending racial segregation and gaining true equality for Black Americans. Preaching non-violence, he fought tirelessly for freedom and justice not only for Black Americans, but for all who suffered due to discrimination, disenfranchisement, and poverty.

Dr. King knew that discrimination led to increased mortality for Black Americans. On March 25, 1966, before his speech at the second convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, Dr. King commented as follows about discrimination against Blacks by health care facilities and programs receiving federal funding:

“We are concerned about the constant use of federal funds to support this most notorious expression of segregation. Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman because it often results in physical death.”

Even as we care for our patients every day in the midst of a pandemic, we must take a moment to contemplate Dr. King’s immeasurable contribution to our country.

Let’s take inspiration from Dr. King as we work to increase equity and access in healthcare.

Dr. King put his health, and even his life, at risk as he inspired, led and often participated in actions such as boycotts of a segregated bus system in Montgomery; voting rights marches in Selma; student sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in Nashville and Albany, Georgia; and a speech in Los Angeles devoted entirely to his opposition to the United States’ actions in Vietnam.

On September 20, 1958, Dr. King was stabbed near his heart with a letter opener during a book signing and fought for his life in Harlem Hospital. A Black surgeon led an interracial surgery team that saved his life.

In 1964, he was in Atlanta’s St. Joseph’s Hospital due to exhaustion when he received a phone call from his wife telling him that he had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Tragically, he died at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968 from an assassin’s bullet.

On behalf of South County Health's leadership and staff, we hope that as 2022 unfolds, all of you enjoy the peace, freedom and unity Dr. King dreamed we would have.