January 20, 2020
The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As an Activist for Health Reform
By: Diverse Elders

On January 15, 1929, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. King’s family always knew that he was special, but no one knew how special he would turn out to be, with his influence still being felt today. As one of the most prominent leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King united Americans to fight racism and oppression via civil disobedience and nonviolent protesting. What is less well known about Dr. King is that his vision for a better America included abolishing health injustice.

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We seldom talk about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work as an activist for health reform. Even the aforementioned quote from Dr. King has been heavily debated for its accuracy. However, multiple people in attendance at the annual meeting of the Medical Committee for Human Rights in March 1966 confirm that Dr. King uttered these words. In a speech directed towards the American Medical Association, Dr. King called for “direct action and creative nonviolence to raise the conscience of a nation.” It was clear that abolishing health injustice for people of color was an important piece of Dr. King’s vision for equality. Unfortunately, his mission to address health injustice was cut short by his assassination just two years later on April 4, 1968.

The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. continues to live on 52 years after his death. In his short life, Dr. King was able to mobilize and unite Americans in the fight for Civil Rights. However, much of his vision for a better America have still not been achieved. Health injustice and discrimination are still present today, affecting millions of individuals, particularly in communities of color. Additionally, with the current political environment, many in our communities have become fearful or distrustful of services that support their health and wellbeing.

However, there is still hope. Millions of people and organizations across the United States are fighting against health injustice and discrimination, continuing Dr. King’s legacy. As we celebrate this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we must continue to fight for equality, in health and other areas, just as Dr. King fought for us.

“We are concerned about the constant use of federal funds to support this most notorious expression of segregation. Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.



The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.