In the X-Men comics, Charles Xavier is the leader of mutant superheroes who protect a world which fears them due to prejudice and because they're different. Known as Professor X, Xavier is a mutant with a mission: one day humans and mutants will live in harmony as two different worlds come together as one.
Like his comic book counterpart, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is more than a man with a mission. He was a man with a dream: that one day the nation known as the United States of America would rise against racism and against an unjust, corrupt system.
"I'm a human being," he said, "a black American."
Born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. King inspired moral courage and taught people how to stay true to themselves while under pressure. He combined Gandhian nonviolence with black Christian ideology which was well-suited for the civil rights struggle.
King was the leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a federation of civil rights groups, community organizations, and churches seeking to coordinate all the burgeoning local movements. The organization was at odds with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) over different tactics, but both worked together to battle for civil rights.
"I have the right to move and live whenever I want." he stated.
King's mission for all black people was to be included in America through nonviolence. Wherever he went he preached racial tolerance, equality and integration as he continued to battle for racial justice.
However, King's nonviolent methods received criticism within the Black Power movement. Professor X's friend-turned-enemy, Magneto, believes that mutants are the next stage of evolution and must take over the world by force.
King had his complete opposite in the form of Malcolm X. Malcolm X changed the dominant political struggle from a strategy of civil rights liberalism to eclectic expressions of Black Nationalism. A "Black Power" paradigm, Malcolm X was more forceful and took a more proactive stance living by the motto "any means necessary."
Another opposite was the Black Panthers, who respected King's nonviolence philosophy but believed in self-defense rather than sitting down and doing nothing. In other words, the Black Panthers believed in arming themselves to the teeth against racism and the unjust system.
In the spring of 1963, months before the March on Washington, DC, Dr. King wrote a "Letter from Birmingham" while he was imprisoned in an Alabama jail:
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.
Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial 'outside agitator' idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds. In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action."
This letter was more than a sermon. King showed his love for the church as he remained steadfast in his faith in God and in his beliefs regarding racial equality and nonviolence.
Saint Paul, the apostle, and Dr. King share some characteristics and similarities. Both stay strong in their Christian faith -- continuing to minister to others and continuing to fight the good fight in spite of persecutions from the world -- with the knowledge that their risk was worth it in the end.
Sadly, on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. He was 39 years old. King left behind his wife, Coretta, who died last year and of whom King wrote:
"I am indebted to my wife, Coretta, without whose love, sacrifices and loyalty neither life nor work would bring fulfillment. She has given me words of consolation when I needed them and a well-ordered home where Christian love is a reality."
Dr. King and his wife were married in 1953 and had four children: daughters Yolanda Denise (b. 1955) and Bernice Albertine (b. 1963); sons Martin Luther III (b. 1957) and Dexter Scott (b. 1961).
Martin Luther King, Jr. was more than a minister. A tireless advocate, he was also an apostle and a soldier. He was willing to break down the walls of racism -- not through force but through patience and faith.
Like Professor X, Dr. King wanted to join two worlds into one. Not only did he believe in the goodness in people of all races, Dr. King believed in equality for all people. This was clearly demonstrated in 1964 with the conclusion of his "I Have a Dream" speech:
"Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom to ring - when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children - black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics - will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: 'Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'"
Finding God in the Movies
MLK's letter from Birmingham jail
The African-American Odyssey, Volume Two: Since 1865
Freedom North: Black Freedom Struggles Outside the South,
Eyes on the Prize: A Nation of Law?, 1968-1971 (Video)