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How Martin Luther King, Jr. Used Travel to Break Down Barriers
In addition to his travels throughout the U.S. in support of racial justice, Martin Luther King, Jr. visited Germany, Norway, and India to inspire and educate himself and others on important issues.
Six million miles. That’s how far Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. traveled during the last 11 years of his life, according to an estimate by the Nobel Committee, which made Dr. King its youngest Peace Prize winner in history in 1964 when the civil rights leader was just 35.
From leading the historic bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 to inspiring millions with speeches like “I Have a Dream,” in 1963, King’s accomplishments in the march to secure equal rights for African-Americans in the U.S. are well-documented.
What many people don’t know about the celebrated nonviolent activist is that he was a world traveler whose views were shaped by what he saw during those journeys.
In 1959, five years before traveling to Oslo, Norway to accept the Nobel Prize, King visited India to see Mahatma Gandhi’s homeland and meet his surviving relatives. King also held discussion sessions at universities and meeting halls around the country, speaking with thousands of Indian people to understand their views on life and equality.
Those encounters made Dr. King even more determined to fight for equal rights. Many of his famous quotes touched on the notion of reaching out to meet new people to establish dialogues and work towards peace:
“We simply cannot have peace in the world without mutual respect.”
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
“We must all learn to live together as brothers. Or we will all perish together as fools.”
King visited Germany in 1964 and insisted on seeing both democratic West Berlin and communist East Berlin, where he challenged authorities with a speech emphasizing “freedom.” He continued traveling throughout the U.S., going wherever he saw racial injustice, from Birmingham to Chicago to Memphis, where he was tragically killed while working on behalf of striking sanitation workers.
Today, millions of people celebrate Dr. King’s legacy and history by remembering him on the January holiday that bears his name and by visiting his childhood home in Atlanta and the MLK Memorial in the nation’s capital.
Another way Americans can honor Martin Luther King is by traveling as he did, with an eagerness to connect with people who live in other cultures or who simply hold opposing viewpoints, in order to break down barriers and show that our similarities as humans far outweigh our differences.
Scott Shetler is a freelance journalist and frequent traveler who enjoys national parks, urban nightlife, and everything in between. He blogs about his adventures at quirkytravelguy.com.
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