With the start of my Urban Sociology class this week, I spent a little time this weekend reflecting on the connections between Martin Luther King, Jr. and cities. Looking at just a few aspects of King’s life suggests he was shaped by cities and he shaped cities.
-King was born in Atlanta, his father was a pastor in Atlanta, he did most of his collegiate and graduate work in cities (Atlanta and Boston), and he was a pastor in Montgomery and Atlanta. King was assassinated in Memphis.
-Much of the Civil Rights Movement activity took place in major cities. The names are familiar: Montgomery, Selma, Birmingham, Washington. Other activity in cities may be less known today to the general public, such as the 1966 Chicago Freedom Movement or why King was in Memphis in 1968.
-The issues King addressed are associated by many Americans with cities: race, injustice, inequality, housing, access to public transportation, jobs. Of course, these issues are not exclusive to urban life but the demographic differences in many parts of the United States between cities and suburbs or rural areas and the ways Blacks were often restricted from certain locations (such as in sundown towns) highlighted the different conditions and realities across places.