What do Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Civil Rights mean to me? It’s very personal. My family has been in this country for more than ten generations. As my grandmother used to say, “We might as well had sprouted out of the Virginia soil.” However, despite the centuries long history of our contributions to this great and prosperous American landscape, it was The Civil Rights Act of 1964 that changed our access to basic human rights once denied.
My father was the son of a Pullman Porter and was in the first racially integrated class of his high school in Kansas City, Missouri. He went on to graduate from college and earned his MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He was also a history buff and in his spirit here are a few more interesting dates:
1869. Dr. Robert Tanner Freeman, a child of slaves, was the first African-American to earn a professional dental degree. He graduated from Harvard Dental School.
1890. Dr. Ida Gray Rollins graduated from University of Michigan School of Dentistry becoming the first African-American woman dentist in the United States.
1947. The first African-American to enter Princeton University as an undergraduate during peacetime was Joseph Ralph Moss.
1954. Brown v. Board of Education. The US Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. Undoubtedly, this landmark decision has had the greatest impact on my life. It not only gave students of color access to equal educational opportunities but also enforced racial integration in hospitals and prompted attention to racial disparities in healthcare delivery and the unfair treatment of hospital employees of color.
Sometimes the road is rocky and the nights are long, but it is indeed an honor and privilege to be a healthcare provider. Dr. King professed that “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?” The fight for an education against great odds is one that continues today. It is paramount that we sustain the legacy of those who sacrificed and challenged the rule of law to secure human rights for all and their ultimate pursuit of happiness. What does #mlk mean to you?