In the mid-1960s, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. contributed an annual essay to The Nation on the state of civil rights and race relations in the United States.  His last piece, from March 14, 1966, could have been written today: "Jobs are harder to create than voting rolls. Harmonizing of peoples of vastly different cultural levels is complicated and frequently abrasive."

Read and share four of King’s timeless and timely essays to mark this year’s holiday.

A Bold Design for a New South, March 30, 1963

Hammer of Civil Rights, March 8, 1964

Let Justice Roll Down, March 15, 1965

The Last Steep Ascent, March 14, 1966

Thanks to YouTube we can also watch King’s remarkable oratory like the I Have a Dream speech delivered on the national mall in Washington, DC in 1963, near the spot where Barack Obama took his oath of office two years ago.

Another video featured by Joshua Holland at Alternet effectively highlights some of King’s more radical ideas as smartly described by video blogger Jay Smooth, founder of New York’s longest running hip-hop radio show, WBAI‘s Underground Railroad.

What I believe is the most important part of King’s monumental legacy to remember this year is the civil rights leader’s firm belief in the importance of building a grassroots movement to pressure whoever is in power. As recounted in Bruce Wallace’s conversation with King biographer Taylor Branch, King always understood that the only way to the mountaintop is through tremendous pushing from below.

In this era, pushing Obama past corporate interests, his business-minded inner staff and his own prudent inclinations to reforms that put people first will take an unprecedented grassroots effort. This, to me, is the main lesson to draw as we pay tribute to King’s life and work on the national holiday in his honor.