Friday, June 21, 2013

Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King Junior is one of the most famous human rights activists across the world. He was an American leader, clergyman and activist in the African-American Civil Rights Movement (Kirk, 224). As a young professional from a very humble background, King rose above all odds to become the defender of black people in America. There was a lot of racial discrimination in ancient America whereby immigrants from other parts of the world were oppressed by the government. Some of the minority groups that suffered discrimination include the Latinos, African-Americans, Asian Americans and the Native Americans. Most of the African Americans were taken to the United States as Slaves to provide labor. Even after the abolition of slave trade and slavery, the former slaves were not allowed to enjoy equal rights as their local counterparts. Their schools were segregated and the quality of education was very poor. Access to good jobs was denied and they were forced to take odd jobs at very minimal wages. Racial discrimination was evident in all spheres of life, an issue that forced Martin Luther King to volunteer to fight for the rights of African Americans. This paper seeks to analyze the life of Martin Luther King and how he managed to use passive, non-violent resistance protest tactics in fighting for the rights of African-Americans. Martin Luther King Junior was born on 15th January, 1929 at Atlanta in Georgia. Although he was initially called Michael King as his father, the names were later changed by the father in honor of Martin Luther who was a German reformer (King, 72). He was the middle child in a family of three children. Martin Luther King was very skeptical about many Christianity claims, even denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus when he was only thirteen years old. However, he later accepted that the bible has truths and joined the seminary. Luther King Junior pursued his studies at Booker T. Washington High School and later Joined Morehouse College at the age of fifteen after skipping the 9th and 12th grades (Kirk, 215). He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology in the year 1948 and immediately enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary from which he graduated with a B. Div degree in the year 1951. He later married in June 1953. Martin Luther King became a pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Alabama in the year 1954 when he was just 25 years old. He then enrolled for doctorial studies at Boston University in theology and graduated with a Ph. D degree in 1955. Martin Luther King is best known for the role he played in improvement of civil rights through the use of nonviolent civil resistance. He has become an icon in the national history of American progression. Although he started his career as a Baptist church minister, he became a civil activist early in his career. In 1955, King led the Montgomery Bus Boycott and also helped in founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in which he was the president. As a leader of the SCLC, king led a struggle against segregation in Albany region of Georgia in 1962 but it was unsuccessful (Garrow, 54-93). He also organized other non-violent protests in Birmingham which attracted the national attention due to the television news coverage that showed brutal response by the police. King always remained politically neutral throughout his life. Being the leader of SCLC, King strongly held to his policy of not endorsing publicly any U.S candidate or political party (Garrow, 54-93). He strongly belied that a person should be in a position of non-alignment in order to objectively look at all parties without biasness. According to the 1958 interview, King felt that no single party in the United States was perfect. Martin Luther King also advocated for compensation of black Americans and other minority groups that were disadvantaged for historical injustices. According to the interview conducted in 1965, King stated that granting of equality only to the black Americans would not close the economic gap that existed between them and the whites. He clarified that his aim is not to seek full restitution of the wages lost to slavery but he only proposed for a government compensatory program to of about $50 billion to all the disadvantaged groups over a period of ten years (Kirk, 215-224). King insisted that this money would be justified by the various benefits that would accrue in form of reduced school dropouts, illegitimacy, rioting, crime rates, swollen relief and family breakups among other social evils. This idea was presented as an application of common law with regard to the settlement of unpaid labor. He however clarified that the money should not only be spent on blacks but it should benefit all other disadvantaged races. Martin Luther also helped in organizing of the “March on Washington” in the year 1963. It was during this march that he delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech which has become very famous the world over. It is through this speech that Martin Luther developed his reputation as being one of the greatest orators in the history of America. He was also known to be a radical which made him a subject of the FBI`s (Federal Bureau of Investigation) COINTELPRO throughout his life. The FBI officers carried out investigations on Martin Luther King for possible communist ties and also recorded his extramarital liaisons which were submitted to the government officials. They also mailed a threatening anonymous letter to King which he interpreted as an attempt of making him commit suicide. Despite all the threats and intimidation, Martin Luther continued fighting for the rights of African Americans through non-violent protests. His efforts were acknowledged in October 1964 when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for fighting racial inequality through nonviolent means. Together with the SCLC, King helped in organizing of the Selma to Montgomery marches in the year 1965. He later took the movement further north to Chicago in the following year. During the final years of Martin Luther King`s life, he expanded his focus to include other issues such as the Vietnam War and poverty. He separated from many of his liberal allies through a speech titled “Beyond Vietnam” which he delivered in 1967. He was also planning for the national occupation of Washington, D.C. referred to as the “Poor People`s Campaign”. Unfortunately, he was assassinated on 4th April, 1968 at Memphis in Tennessee (Ayton, 16-34). This sparked riots in several cities across the United States. Work Cited Ayton, Mel (2005). A Racial Crime: James Earl Ray And The Murder Of Martin Luther King Jr. Archebooks Publishing. Pp. 16-34 Garrow, David (1989). Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Pulitzer Prize. pp. 54-93 Kirk, John A. (2007) ed. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement: Controversies and Debates. pp. 215-224 King, Coretta Scott (1993) [1969]. My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr. Henry Holth & Co. pp. 72