The city of Lakewood MLK Committee is kicking off its Hidden Heroes campaign by highlighting and honoring Civil Rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and and longtime advocate, educator and co-founder of the Lakewood Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration event, Jo Ethel Smith.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Historians and scholars have said in 13 years of his leadership in the civil rights movement, African Americans achieved more genuine progress toward racial equality than the previous 350 years. Dr. King is widely regarded as America’s pre-eminent advocate of nonviolence and one of the greatest nonviolent leaders in world history. Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Nobel Peace Prize lecture and “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” are among the most revered orations and writings in the English language. His accomplishments are now taught to American children of all races, and his teachings are studied by scholars and students worldwide. He is the only non-president to have a national holiday dedicated in his honor, and is the only non-president memorialized on the Great Mall in the nation’s capital. He is memorialized in hundreds of statues, parks, streets, squares, churches and other public facilities around the world as a leader whose teachings are increasingly-relevant to the progress of humankind.
“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”
(Information from: The King Center)
Jo Ethel Smith
Born in Montgomery, Alabama, Jo Ethel Smith experienced first-hand Jim Crow laws that separated and excluded African Americans. During the Civil Rights Movement Smith found herself standing shoulder to shoulder with some of the movement’s most famous figures including peacefully marching with Ralph Abernathy and conducting programs as a choir director for her church with Coretta Scott King, wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. By 1962 Smith moved to the Pacific Northwest with her husband Floyd, who was assigned to Fort Lewis (now Joint Base Lewis-McChord). A school teacher and administrator who worked in Alabama, Germany and Tacoma, Smith drew from her experiences in the south – the nonviolent marches down Alabama streets, the sit-ins, rallies and more – as the foundation for establishing the Dr. Martin Luther, King, Jr. Celebration in the city of Lakewood that continues today.
“Don’t discriminate. I know what being discriminated feels like. When I worked in the classroom, every student in the building was important. I believe we have to love. When we don’t love each other we cannot succeed.” – Jo Ethel Smith, interview with Lakewood Connections Magazine
(Information from an interview with Lakewood Connections Magazine, Winter 2017)
About Hidden Heroes
The city of Lakewood’s MLK Committee is excited to honor national and local pioneers in the African American community each week through the end of February. The committee invites recipients to share this with others and hope it sparks dialogue around the important role African Americans play in shaping our country and community. To learn about other Hidden Heroes, visit the Lakewood Pierce County Library and explore the Black History Month display, or find books, movies and more online anytime at www.piercecountylibrary.org. To receive the weekly emails request your email be added by contacting Lakewood Communications Manager Brynn Grimley, firstname.lastname@example.org.