More than 50 years after Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, his words continue to resonate with communities of color. As a leader in the civil rights movement, we often discuss the integral role he played in advancing the causes of African Americans. But what we don’t often discuss is how he also inspired and mobilized Latinos across the United States.
As Raul Yzaguirre, the former president of the National Council of La Raza, told the Associated Press, MLK’s speech pushed him to advocate for more than just Latinos. “Although the focus was on the African-American community at the time, I think his thoughts, his sense of justice resonated with those of us who had perhaps a broader sense of inclusion, who wanted Latinos and Native Americans and other minorities to be an integral part of a civil rights movement,” he said.
And two years after the March on Washington – which showed many the effects of organizing on a large scale – the 1965 voting rights marches in Selma further showed them the power of grass-roots organizing. And reflecting on King’s legacy 10 years after his death, Chavez wrote in Maryknoll Magazine that the civil rights leader led the way through his nonviolence, which inspired the United Farm Workers’ philosophy.
“It has been our experience that few men or women ever have the opportunity to know the true satisfaction that comes with giving one’s life totally in the nonviolent struggle for justice,” he wrote. “Martin Luther King, Jr., was one of these unique servants and from him we learned many of the lessons that have guided us. For these lessons and for his sacrifice for the poor and oppressed, Dr. King’s memory will be cherished in the hearts of the farm workers forever.”