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Considering Martin Luther King Jr.’s Legacy during a Pandemic

By Ione Damasco

  • “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience and comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
    — Martin Luther King Jr.

The University of Dayton community typically celebrates the life and legacy of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. with large gatherings — marches, a community breakfast, film screenings and discussions, worship and prayer, and in-person service opportunities. But the pandemic has forced us to rethink how we can continue to educate ourselves and engage in activism around antiracist civil rights work when we cannot physically be present in solidarity with one another. 

The pandemic has also magnified where racial disparities persist in our country. The CDC has stated that “inequities in the social determinants of health, such as poverty and healthcare access … are interrelated and influence a wide range of health and quality-of-life outcomes and risks” for racial and ethnic minorities. People of color face an increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19. The work that King started during the civil rights movement to undo systemic inequities is more critical than ever.

Fortunately, the University Libraries provide access to numerous print and online resources that you can check out to learn more about King’s work, as well as the work of many others who continue to resist injustice and oppression in our society. We encourage you to explore these resources and then find ways virtually to create opportunities for dialogue in your community that can lead to transformative action. You can start small — pick one of King’s writings or speeches; set up a Google Hangout or a Zoom session with some friends; and share your reflections with one another and brainstorm ideas for ways you can turn inspiration into action.

All are invited to learn about ways to engage in activism, and University Libraries will offer a free, asynchronous program to discover more about King’s life and legacy and reflect on connecting his message to today’s struggles for social justice. 

program opportunity

Research guide

Works by Martin Luther King Jr.

Works by other authors:

— Ione Damasco is a professor in the University Libraries, where she is the director of information acquisition and organization. She is the subject selector for the women’s and gender studies program, the race and ethnic studies program, and library science. She has published and presented nationally on a variety of topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion, including “From Being to Doing: Anti-racism as Action at Work,” a preconference keynote before the 2020 conference of the Academic Library Association of Ohio.

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