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The Fight for Civil Rights
Pages and Files
Civil Rights Events
Martin Luther King, Jr
Martin Luther King Jr.
Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. His father was a reverend, and he had one brother and a sister. He and his father were originally named Micheal, but his father changed their names to Martin Luther in 1934 to honor the famous German Protestant. He had 4 children with his wife Coretta. He started Christian College at age 15, he became an assistant pastor at age 19, and became pastor of his first church at age 25. He played a huge part in civil rights and fought for freedom for black people. He achieved international fame after leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In addition to the role he played in this event, he was also a key leader in the March on Washington, the protest later known as"Bloody Sunday", and the formation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). He was the youngest man ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize at age 35 for his efforts to end segregation and promote peace and equality. He strongly supported non-violent protest and was very outspoken against the Vietnam war. On April 3, 1968, during a trip to Memphis, Tennessee as part of the "Poor People's Campaign", he gave the famous "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech that would be his last. King was assassinated by James Earl Ray the next day at the Lorraine motel at age 39.
King had goals of freedom for Black people and equality among everyone. He sought to end segregation in every aspect of life. He was greatly influenced by the Indian leader Ghandi, and even though they differed in religious beliefs, King greatly admired Ghandi's ability to successfully protest peacefully and get his points across without violence. King had a goal to end segregation in everything from restaurants to voting rights. He took place in and led dozens of peaceful protests, such the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the March on Washington, the Birmingham Campaign, and the Poor People's Campaign. He also participated in countless other, smaller protests, such as sit-ins at restaurants and stores, and helping organizations such as the NAACP promote black rights. He was arrested over 30 times for some of the protests he took part in, but never spent more than a couple weeks in jail.
King speaking during the March on Washington
King's ultimate goal was to eliminate racism and segregation. He worked his entire life to promote the rights of the oppressed, and through his efforts, great progress was made. Although King suffered for his actions, he persisted. During the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which lasted over a year, he was arrested and his house was bombed, but due to his persistence and leadership, a bill was passed to end segregation on buses in Montgomery. in 1958, shortly after forming the SCLC, he was stabbed in the chest by a woman with a letter opener and nearly died. In 1963, he had all his phone lines tapped by the government on suspicion of communist activity within the Civil Rights Movement, and certain events from his personal life were publicized in an attempt to take him out of leadership. Despite these hardships, he pressed on and led the march on Washington. Even though it recieved much criticism, such as Malcolm X calling it "The Farce on Washington", the largest protest in the nation's history went on, and achieved many of its short term demands, such as the end of segregation in schools and discrimination in employment, a minimum wage for black workers, and protection for civil rights workers and activists against things such as police brutality. These were the first major steps toward his long term dreams.
While he did not live to see his ultimate goal achieved, his efforts have led to vast improvement over the last few decades. Racism is almost nonexistent now, as is evidenced by the fact that the nation's first black president was just elected. A new age of tolerance and equality is coming, and while no issue will ever be completely resolved, this issue is as close to being resolved as any problem will ever get.
Martin Luther King Jr. giving his famous "I have a dream" speech to a large crowd
King's efforts had a profound effect of the civil rights movement, and without them, equal rights would most likely not have come nearly as far as they have today. He led the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and without his determination and leadership, it would probably have failed in a matter of weeks, but because of his efforts, new bus segregation laws were passed. Without King, the SCLC would most likely never even have been formed. The march on Washington really would have been a 'Farce on Washington' if not for the powerful leader and speaker our nation had in Martin Luther King. Without his inspiring words and determined actions, most of the laws for black rights would not have been passed. King united all the smaller protests across the nation into one, huge movement impossible to be ignored or contained. If not for King, segregation and discrimination could be as big an issue today as it was half a century ago, and it is likely that very little progress would have been made at all. He was the main instigator and leader of the entire civil rights movement, and provided the inspiration that led so many people to stand up for their rights.
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