Martin Luther King Jr. was a world-famous African-American clergyman, social activist, Baptist minister, humanitarian, pastor, leader of the Civil Rights Movement, and the Nobel laureate, who played a pivotal role in lives of African-Americans. The African-American Civil Rights Movement ended in 1968, when on April 4, the racist James Ray murdered its leader Martin Luther King. He was thirty-nine. In modern times, Martin Luther King Jr. remains a preeminent representative of his time, owing to his outstanding role in the development of civil rights movement and non-compliance based on Christian faith. King was a preacher, father, husband, and a dedicated leader of the movement that continued the transformation of the United States and the entire world. Martin Luther King Jr. remains one of the most influential personalities of the twentieth century, who lived an astonishing life. King was a curious, calm child and a student, who resisted segregation throughout his life. As a devout young minister, King constantly questioned the limit of his wisdom and the depth of his belief (“King, Martin Luther, Jr.”). Martin Luther King was a loving father and husband, who attempted to balance his family’s demands with the necessities of a growing national movement; he was a reflective and foremost leader who was eventually assassinated for his struggles of equality for people of all races.
The King’s family was a loving and secure environment for him. Martin Sr. was quite a disciplinarian personality, while gentleness and kindness of his wife easily balanced the father’s strict hand. Despite the family’s attempts, Martin Jr.’s parents could not completely protect him from prejudice and racism. His father struggled against racial bias since his race suffered a lot. In addition, Martin Sr. believed that segregation and racism were an affront to will of God. A father disapproved any sense of superiority within his family, which later left an indelible impression on young Martin (“Martin Luther King Jr.”). The King’s family was actively involved in worship and church life. However, Martin Jr. felt uncomfortable observing excessively emotional manifestations of religious worship, since he still questioned religion. Much to the father’s consternation, King refused to enter the ministry because of the discomfort he felt during adolescence. However, Martin Jr. renewed his faith by taking a Bible class and started to envision his career in the ministry. The King’s family lived in Montgomery, Alabama for less than one year when a city with the high level of segregation became a center of intensified struggle for the civil rights of Americans. Breadlines throughout the era of depression undoubtedly enhanced King’s awareness of the economic inequities. Campaigns conducted by Martin Sr. against racial discrimination in teachers’ wages and voting helped King to create his own politically engaged ministry. Martin Jr. opposed religious emotionalism. Being a teenager, he questioned some aspects of Baptist doctrine, including corporeal resurrection of Jesus. As a strong advocate of civil rights for all people of his race, King was engaged in activity of the leading American organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (“Martin Luther King Jr. – Biographical”). In December of 1955, King became a leader of the first nonviolent demonstration of black people in modern America. In 1957, Martin Luther King became a president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the organization that provided new leadership for expanding civil rights movement. The operational techniques for this organization were taken by King from Mahatma Gandhi, who was a prominent leader of Indian nationalism encouraging nonviolent civil disobedience. The ideals for organization King took from Christianity. In the period between 1957 and 1968, King spoke almost twenty-five hundred times, travelling millions of miles throughout the country. King appeared wherever there were protests, prejudice, and injustice. Meanwhile, he wrote numerous articles and books. During this period, King took part in a crowded protest in Birmingham, Alabama. This event attracted the world’s attention and provided a manifest of revolution and coalition of conscience. Once, Martin Luther King Jr. planned a trip to Alabama in order to register black people as voters. King lead a peaceful march on Washington, D.C., involving almost two hundred fifty thousand people to whom he addressed a remarkable speech “I Have a Dream”. King campaigned for President Johnson and conferred with President Kennedy. Martin Jr. was assaulted four times and arrested twenty times. However, a leader of Civil Rights Movement got five honorary degrees and, in 1963, Time magazine named him a man of the year. In fact, King became not only a symbolic leader of black people, but also a world personality. He met with civil rights and religious leaders, while lecturing on race-related challenges throughout the country. Success of Mahatma Gandhi, one of the most eminent supporters of nonviolent public disobedience, inspired Martin Luther King. Therefore, in 1959, he decided to visit Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace Porbandar, British Indian Empire. The trip profoundly affected King, strengthening his commitment to the American civil rights struggle. In his autobiography, Martin Luther King described Gandhi as “the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change” (“Martin Luther King Jr.”). Aged thirty-five, King was the youngest person, who received the Nobel Peace Prize. As a champion of civil rights and progressive Christian, King deserved the award for resisting racial prejudice and inequality through non-violent actions (Kelly). Later, King announced that he would give almost fifty-four thousand dollars as the prize for advancing the African-American civil rights movement. As a preeminent and respected leader, Martin Luther King campaigned for equality of African-American people, struggled for economically disadvantaged people, and advocated for the victims of injustice leading peaceful protests. Moreover, Martin Luther King headed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) that largely influenced the U.S. Civil Rights Movement (Firestone). Being a president of SCLC, King lectured on civil rights, race-related challenges, and nonviolent protests. Moreover, a leader traveled throughout the world and across America, where he met with politicians, social activists, and religious figures. Through his activism, King played a crucial role in ending segregation of African-Americans in the South and other states. Martin Luther King was the outstanding fighter and supporter behind the important historical events such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott and March on Washington, D.C. One of the massive political rallies for civil rights in the history, March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom conducted on August 28, 1963 was a key point in the struggle for human rights. Montgomery Bus Boycott was caused by the incident occurred on December 1, 1955. Then, a secretary of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Rosa Parks, refused to give her seat to a white man on a Montgomery bus. Later, a woman was detained (“Martin Luther King Jr.”). People chose Martin Luther King as an official spokesperson and a leader of the protest. Activists continued to coordinate a bus boycott that lasted for more than one year. A bus boycott caused a heavy economic pressure on the downtown business owners and the entire public transit system. Since the struggle of African Americans progressed from desegregation protests to mass movements acquiring political and economic benefits in the South and North, the King’s active engagement was limited to some highly publicized campaigns. As the decisive events, St. Augustine and Birmingham campaigns secured public support for the passage of civil rights legislation. These campaigns helped to enact important legislation, in particular, the Civil Rights Acts and Voting Rights Act brought about in the 1960s (“King, Martin Luther, Jr.”). American civil rights activists continued to conduct their nonviolent protests, legal actions, and civil disobedience pursuing equality for all citizens. Martin Luther King was deservedly proclaimed a national icon of American progressivism (Krugman 84). Continuous civil rights agitation undoubtedly generated a strong effect on society’s point of view. The majority of citizens, who did not experience racial tension, started to question the national Jim Crow laws based on racial segregation, and second-class appeal to African Americans. According to the Jim Crow laws, black people were denied of certain civil rights. Therefore, many American cities encountered this challenge. It later, led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act, empowering federal authorities to outlaw discrimination and enforce desegregation in public accommodations. From late 1965 to 1967, Martin Luther King promoted his Civil Rights Movement in large American cities, including Los Angeles and Chicago. However, he faced public challenges and growing criticism from leaders of black youth. King’s non-violent approach, patience, and treatment of white middle-class alienated the majority of black activists. Militants viewed King’s methods as late and weak (“Martin Luther King Jr.”). The sharp-tongued black urban youth considered a leader’s manner as non-effective and irresponsibly passive. Martin Luther King started to make a connection between poverty and discrimination in order to respond to criticism. King expanded his civil rights struggle to the Vietnam War. He harshly criticized a foreign policy conducted by the United States and opposed the war. Moreover, King questioned the entire capitalistic system that, in reality, generated poverty and inequality. He considered the country’s involvement and government’s conduct of Vietnam War as politically untenable and discriminatory to poor people. King strove to broaden his base by establishing a multi-race union to resolve economic and unemployment issues of all disadvantaged citizens. Since 1986, Americans have commemorated January 15 as the day of King’s birth. Martin Luther King Day became a national holiday in the United States. As one of the foremost leaders of the U.S. civil rights, King left an indelible mark in the contemporary history, and his murder in 1968 shocked the nation and the whole world. Martin Jr. is remembered as a clergyman, Baptist preacher, humanitarian, and a social activist, who introduced non-violent means for his protests that later became a key model for the world civil rights movements. Enriching metaphors and applying exceptional techniques, Martin Luther King set the tone for the inspirational and unforgettable oratory in the twentieth century. The leader’s speeches stimulated people of all races to come together and peacefully manage injustice and prejudice in America. King’s legendary oration, “I Have a Dream” reflects a leader’s struggle that he conducted to achieve equal human rights for black people.
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In 1963, King stood near the Lincoln Memorial, a monument to the eminent president who eliminated the institution of slavery in the USA. King shared Lincoln’s vision, in which “this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal” (“Martin Luther King Jr.”). King addressed his speech at march on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. A civil rights activist urged Americans to create a real democratic nation that would be free from racism and prejudice. In reality, it was the King’s spirited call to the nation’s conscience, peace, and equality. Martin Luther King synthesized pieces of his earlier speeches to express both the potential for hope and necessity for changes in America. The speech “I Have a Dream” emphasized King’s belief that someday all humans would become brothers. King’s iconic oration predicted a crucial day when the promise of freedom and equality would become a reality (“Martin Luther King Jr.”). Nowadays, Americans and world community consider King’s oration a masterpiece of rhetoric. In his posthumously published work “A Testament of Hope” written in 1969, King urged the nation to refrain from violence. He warned, “White America must recognize that justice for black people cannot be achieved without radical changes in the structure of our society.” King insisted that the revolution of black people was more than an ordinary civil rights movement. It forced the United States to overcome poverty, racism, materialism, and militarism (King 194). Martin Luther King undoubtedly went down the history. Moreover, King’s theological studies, deep family roots in the Baptist church, creative experiences in his hometown, and various models of political and religious leadership applied in the social justice movement eventually transformed him. Although Martin Luther King lived a short life, it was astonishing for the way it inspired and reflected the main political, cultural, and intellectual developments of the twentieth century (“King, Martin Luther, Jr.”). Working as a social activist and Baptist minister, King strove to awaken the nation’s conscience. Moreover, he maintained strike of sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. During the career of the civil rights dedicated activist, Martin Luther King applied the persuasive power to overcome racists, bigots, enemies, and cynics on the civil rights matter. King could speak to large crowds for a long time and write letters to people who did not support his struggle and social position. As a preeminent speaker, Martin Luther King was strong enough to align his actions with a steadfast commitment to the radical transformation of America through nonviolent actions. As a main figure of the U.S. civil rights movement, King strove to create a united nation. He believed that legal segregation and discrimination on race and color would remain in the history. A well-known racist and escaped convict James Ray pleaded guilty of the murder of Martin Luther King. He was sentenced to ninety-nine years in prison. Later on, a murderer denied his confession and surrounded himself with unlikely advocates, in particular, the King family. The life and social activism of Martin Luther King essentially influenced the race relations in the United States. Forty-six years have already passed after King was assassinated. However, Americans still commemorate a legendary humanitarian, social activist, and a preacher of that time. King’s activity and struggle have been honored with the remarkable memorial on Independence Mall in the capital. It is important to note that the life of a civil rights leader was observed as a controversial one. In 1970s, under the act of Freedom of Information, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that Martin Luther King was under the administration’s surveillance. It is assumed that King was involved in the adulterous relationships and communistic activity. In general, a leader was fallible and limited in his actions and control over the social movements. However, King was a visionary leader, who believed that equality and social justice could be attained through nonviolent means (“Martin Luther King Jr.). Over the next decades, a comprehensive archival investigation represented a balanced assessment of Martin Luther King as a complex historical figure.