January 2017 – Poster featuring Martin Luther King

Poster featuring Martin Luther KingEvery January, people around the world celebrate Martin Luther King Day (16 January).

Dr Martin Luther King was a campaigner for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s and led the movement which called for greater equality between white and black people during a time of racial segregation.  As well as leading marches, Dr King would make impassioned speeches on subjects such as non-violent resistance, world affairs and the unity of humankind.  His oratory style was influenced by the Baptist sermons he heard as a child in the Southern States of America.

Below the image of Dr King, the poster features a quote from one of his speeches, influenced by the Bible.  The reference to ploughshares is from the Book of Isaiah in which weapons of war and destruction are transformed into objects which benefit all people.

The poster was produced by the Peace Pledge Union.  Founded in 1934, it is the oldest secular pacifist movement in the UK.  Their membership included the authors Aldous Huxley and Bertrand Russell.  Many protest movements have used Martin Luther King as a symbol of non-violent resistance and the possibility for social change.

In 1964, Dr King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  In 1965, the Voting Rights Act outlawed discriminatory voting practices which excluded African Americas living in some of the Southern States of America from voting.  Dr King’s legacy paved the way for Barack Obama, America’s first African-American President, whose term in office will end this month (20 January 2017).

This poster is currently in the People’s History Museum store (accession number NMLH 93).  Please contact collections@phm.org.uk if you wish to view it.