Watch CBS News

King protégé moves leader's vision of non-violence forward

Long after Martin Luther King's death, his message of non-violence is carried by a protege
MLK protege teaches nonviolence to new generation 02:31

SELMA, Ala. - Just hours before Martin Luther King Jr., was gunned down on April 4, 1968, he had a talk with one of his fellow activists. A simple conversation that laid out the future for Bernard Lafayette, the author of "In Peace and Freedom: My Journey in Selma."

"Martin Luther King said, "now Bernard, the next thing we have to do, the next movement is to institutionalize and to internationalize nonviolence."

After King's death, Lafayette vowed to turn King's words into action.

The 27-year-old was a veteran of protests, sit-ins and the freedom bus rides in the south, and was beaten and arrested numerous times.

Bernard Lafayette as a young activist in the 1960s. CBS News

In Selma, Ala., on the very bridge where he marched for equal voting rights, he remembered the demonstration.

"See, the whole idea of marching, it's not just wearing out leather or rubber on your shoes, it's about being able to step together," said Lafayette. "It shows a sense of unity.

Lafayette is now a professor at Emory University and the chairman of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization once led by King. He has spent the last five decades doing as King instructed, teaching non-violence at home and in 35 countries around the world, including to prisoners in California and gang members in Columbia.

He contemplated if King's idea of institutionalizing non-violence has happened in this country.

"No," it hasn't happened," he said. "You see, violence is a language of the inarticulate, when people don't know how to talk and communicated with each other."

Which is why he also went to Ferguson, Mo., to help a new generation find alternatives to violence and defeat those who hate.

"Their purpose was to silence Martin Luther King, his voice," said Lafayette. "But we can hear it everywhere we go. And that's what my life was devoted to and has been and is now."

A life dedicated to King's ideal of achieving peaceful ends through peaceful means.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.