Museum News

A Daughter’s Reflection: Remembering My Father’s Legacy of Freedom

January 18, 2016

by Bernice A. King

It is my privilege to write this reflection to those visiting the Web site of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. I commend the work that Lonnie Bunch, the museum’s founding director, and his entire team have done to bring our history to life. This museum will make an indelible contribution to our nation’s history. I know my Mother and Father would be so proud of this museum and what it will mean for generations yet unborn.

On, January 18th the nation and, indeed, the world will commemorate the 87th birthday of my father, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the 30th Anniversary of the Federal Holiday in his honor.

As I enter this holiday observance, it is with a heavy, but hopeful heart. While what my father identified as "the triple evils of poverty, racism and violence/militarism" have intensified in our culture, there are movements afoot in this nation and throughout the world, which are seeking to ensure that people from all, races, ethnicities, class and cultures have the "freedom to participate in government; the freedom to prosper in life; and the freedom to peacefully co-exist." The convergence of these movements in the general marketplace signals the emergence of a freedom explosion designed to liberate us from the damning, demoralizing and damaging  effect of long-standing injustices and inequities. The burgeoning cry is "FREEDOM!"

Birthday card from Bernice King to her father In honor of 2016 being the 50th anniversary of my father leading the Chicago Freedom Movement, and in light of the current freedom surge in our culture, our theme for this year's national King Holiday is "Remember! Celebrate! Act! King's Legacy of Freedom for our World." It is apparent that the attacks on freedom across this world have heightened global and domestic tension. Fear has gripped our world in response to the numerous terrorist attacks, multiple mass shooting incidents, the continuing imbalance of justice in the application of our laws, the increasing proliferation of guns throughout all arenas of our National life, the persistent drumbeat of war and escalation of incendiary political rhetoric that has overt racial, sectarian, and xenophobic roots. To overcome the increasing polarization that is occurring in our world, the quest for Freedom compels us to find a way to "live together as brothers and sisters or together we will perish as fools."

Advancing my father’s legacy of nonviolence is something I am deeply committed to, not just because he was my Dad, but because his philosophy and methodology of nonviolence works (Nonviolence365™)! Now more than ever, it is incumbent upon us all to remain committed to the principles of nonviolence and not succumb to the temptation to return violence for violence. Let us remember the admonition of my father in his "I Have A Dream" Speech at The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom - “In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plain of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” Although this is no easy feat, we do have the capacity to attain it. We continue to urge and encourage people to choose nonviolence because “the end is reconciliation, the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community.”                                                                      

Bernice King, Daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Bernice King: Daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King

Join me and The King Center as we embrace Nonviolence365 to create a world where my father's dream of Freedom, Peace and Justice becomes a reality for all humankind. In the words of my mother, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, "Struggle is a never ending process; freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation." Now is the time to earn it and win it!

Bernice A. King is Chief Executive Officer of The King Center

Media Contact(s): 

Fleur Paysour (202) 633-4761; 
Lindsey Koren (202) 633-4052; 

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The National Museum of African American History and Culture will be a place where all Americans can learn about the richness and diversity of the African American experience, what it means to their lives and how it helped us shape this nation. A place that transcends the boundaries of race and culture that divide us, and becomes a lens into a story that unites us all.