Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the eldest of Martin Luther King, Sr., a Baptist minister, and Alberta Williams King. His Father served as a pastor of a large Atlanta church, Ebenezer Baptist, which had been founded by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s maternal grandfather. King, Jr., was ordainded as a Baptist minister at age 18. King attended local segrated public school, where he excelled. He entered a nearby college, Morehouse College, at age 15 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1948.
After graduating with honors from Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania in 1951, he went to Boston University where he earned a doctoral degree in systematic theology in 1955.
While in Boston, King met Coretta Scott, a music student and native of Alabama. They were married in 1953 and had four children. In 1954 King accepted his first pastorate at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Mongomery, Alabama. This was a church with a well educated congregation that had recently been led by a minister who had protested against segregation.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lead many of the peaceful demonstrations protesting the segregation between blacks and whites. His peaceful approach to many of the obstacles in the way of integration was the most successful during that time period. Other more violent means of protest such as the efforts of Malcom X and whites protesting integration were considered less seriously and seen as a greater threat to society. Examples of King’s peaceful protesting against segregation were during the 1955- 1956 Montgomery bus boycott. It begain when a 43 year old black woman, Rosa Parks, refused to give up her seat to a white man. Dr. King was appalled when she was arrested and urged the black population of Montgomery to join together and stand up to the dehumanization of segregation. Together with local community leaders, King produced and distributed nearly 7,000 leaflets persuading blacks to completely avoid riding to buses work, town, school, or elsewhere. Instead, people should take cabs, carpool, or walk. King was worried that the boycott was unethical, would turn violent, or would intimidate blacks However the boycott was succsessful with nearly 100% participation level. In 1956 the Supreme court affirmed a decision declaring that state and local laws supporting segregation on buses were unethical. On December 1, city busses were integrated showing that the boycott had been sucsessful. The civil rigths movement took a big step forward during the Greensboro sit-ins. Each day of the sit-ins the number of participants increased. The pressure they put on Woolworths, their original target, caused profits to be decreased by 50% in 1950. Eventually on July 25, the first black person was allowed to eat at the lunch counter. These sit-ins also caused the formation of crucial organizations. Student Non-violent Coodinating Commitee (SNCC) was founded by the students involved in the sit-ins. SNCC drafted a code to be used by the entire non-violent movement. Some of the points in the code included don’t strike back, don’t laugh out, don’t hold converstaions with floor walkers, and remember love and non-violence Though King was not directly involved in the sit-ins, he was the moral leader and inspiration for the whole movement. Knowing King’s strong belief in equality and intergration, when Philip Randolph planned The March on Washington he asked King to organize and speak at the event. The purpose of the demonstration was to demand strong federal protection of black rights and to inspire the people. Other unsucsessful demonstrations had been planned in the past but failed due to the use of militant, more violent means of protest. Many government officials were strongly against The March on Washington, fearing it would become a sit- in. King convinced them it would be only a “Peace Pilgrimage.” The idea was encouraged by the black and white anti-segregation population and on August 28,1963 over 200,000 supporters surrounded the reflecting pool to hear King, among others, speak. People of all different ethnic and religious groups were greatly inspired by his speech. As quoted in Blumberg p123, “Never before had leading representatives, of the Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish faiths identified so closely and visibly with black demands.” Martin Luther King Jr’s approach to protesting against segregation was effective because of his use of passive resistance. His demonstrations appeared to be serene, but underneath they were strong enough to stand up to bitter oponents such as the Klu Klux Klan and the local police. Violence and hate were constantly expressed towards King and his followers, but they rose above the madness in an effort to work for equality and unity – peacefully.
Martin Luther King, Jr. led many non-violent protests which stated to the public the need for equality for black Americans, all of these protests recommended to both blacks and whites how to improve the condition of blacks in America. The Montgomery Bus Boycott, related protests in Birmingham, and the March on Washington are all peaceful ways King communicated his beliefs and ideas to the public. One of Martin Luther King Jr’s. most famous peaceful protests was the March on Washington. During the march, King gave his well-known, “I Have A Dream” speech. He stated to the people of the United States of America that there was a need to end all forms of discrimination and segregation. The content of the march essentially demand the passage of the Kennedy Administration’s Civil Rights Package -“without compromise or filibusters”, the integration of all public schools by the end of this year, a federal program to “train and place all unemployed workers, negroes or whites, in meaningful and dignified jobs at decent wages”, and a federal Fair Employment Practices Act excluding all job discrimination. All four of these goals have been accomplished in the past 32 years, bringing the blacks to nearly equal society of the whites.
The events occuring in Alabama were an important movement headed by King to stop segregation. The wave of protests began in Albany, Georgia in 1961 for equal rights among blacks and whites. They reached a peak in the Spring of 1963 when a series of demonstrations occured in Birmingham led by King and many other civil rights leaders. Such demonstrations were held at lunch counters and other sites to protest racial discrimination. City police attacked the peaceful demonstrators with police dogs and high-powered fire hoses. There were many arrests including King himself. It was at this time that King wrote his famous “Letter From A Birmingham Jail” which set forth his theory of nonviolent direct action. The Selma to Montgomery march of 1965 also led by King furthered the passage of the Federal Voting Rights Act. Although the Voting Rights Movement in Mississippi made slow progress, the civil protests in southern urban centers achieved important gains. King’s dream became a partial reality when, in 1965, another series of protests in Selma prompted President Lyndon B. Johnson to introduce new voting rights legislation, which was passed in that summer. It had a dramatic impact on black voter registration. In Mississippi, the percentage of blacks registered to vote increased seven percent in 1964 to fifty-nine percent in 1968. Martin Luther King’s approach to gaining civil rights for black America was very effective. His use of non- violent means accomplished the dream in which he envisioned. King’s dream that “little black boys” and “little white boys” will be able to go to school together. Today many blacks recieve the same educational oppertunities and occupational equality. King used a more advanced way of protest, the non-violence movement. This movement which used tactics such as civil disobedience and boycotting. Sit-ins, passing legislation and use of the press and media were also effective ways of protest. The Montgomery Bus boycott in 1955 was the first of many effective ways that Martin Luther King, Jr . protested the racism in the South. The March on Washington of 1963 was one of the most influential means of protest that America has ever seen. In an act of unwitting martyrdom, even King’s death brought about passing of important legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of ’68 and the Fair Housing Act of ’69. On the opposite side of the this issue was Malcom X. Although their goals were the same, the means in which they tried to achieve them were quite different. Malcolm believed in “any means necessary” to stop racism. He proposed the destruction of the white middle class. These protests by Malcom X did not achieve nearly the same results, as they would have if he supported non-violence. Martin Luther King was the most important figure in the Civil Rights Movement. His non-violent methods sparked the passage of many important pieces of legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The methods of King contrasted greatly with those of other civil rights leaders who believed violence was a viable answer to racial injustice. Conversely, King’s non-violent and legal methods of protest made him the most productive and respected leader in the quest for racial equality tracing all the way back to the Civil War era. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “Dream” has not yet become a total reality. African Americans have gained some social equality, however; blacks have not been fully recognized as an accepted group of people in the American society. Also, African Americans continue to struggle against stereotypes placed upon them because of the poverty in the inner cities. Since the 1950’s and the 1960’s, there have been many changes in how African Americans have been accepted by the white majority. In the 1960’s, blacks had to fight for many freedoms as citizens. Blacks were considered by whites to be less of a person than a white was. The black race was fighting for their equality. African Americans were fighting to stop segregation in schools, and they were trying to gain voting rights. During the non-violent movement, blacks were forced to suffer police brutality and the violation of other constitutional rights. In the 1990’s, the standard of living has been greatly improved. Although we as a society have a long way to go and still face many problems dealing with economic standards, political power and some discrimination, much of King’s dream has started to become a reality. WORK SITEDwww.infoseek.comwww.northernlight.com
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