"You cannot substitute
one tyranny for the other, and for the Black man to be struggling
for justice and then turn around and be anti-Semitic, is not
only a very irrational course, but it is a very immoral course,
and whenever we have seen anti-Semitism we have condemned
it with all our might."
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. challenged the country’s well-established
structure of segregation and
racial discrimination by leading marches and boycotts in the
Jim Crow South. He inspired people across the nation with
his commanding oratory and committed his life to extinguishing
the flames of racism, which had divided our country since
the days of slavery. By exposing Americans to his dream of
universal civil rights through non-violent protest he helped
transform our collective conscience.
We pay tribute to a man whose pursuit of equality and justice
helped shape a vision of America as a country where all people
could live and work together without regard to their color,
creed or religion.
ADL pays special tribute to Dr. King for his dedication to
combating anti-Semitism. He was a leader in the struggle to
free Soviet Jewry and supported Israel’s right to a secure
and independent state. His deep understanding of our shared
history helped usher in an era of steady cooperation and mutual
respect. Dr. King understood that, "The segregationists
and racists make no fine distinction between the Negro and
His commitment to fighting anti-Semitism continued throughout
his life. In a letter to Jewish leaders just months before
his death Dr. King stated, "I will continue to oppose
it [anti-Semitism], because it is immoral and self-destructive."
His life was truly his message, and today his message continues
to transcend race, religion and time.
Perhaps King’s greatest legacy was his conviction that justice
for Black people could not be achieved in a vacuum—but rather
that all Americans must live free from oppression in order
to guarantee freedom. The most fitting honor we can pay Dr.
King on his birthday is to recommit ourselves to the principles
of social justice for which he gave his life.