His original name is Michael King, Jr., and he was born in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, on January 15, 1929 (Carson & Lewis, 2020). He grew up with his family and later became a religious minister at King’s Holt Street, an African-American Baptist church. He inherited the calling of being a pastor from his father and grandfather, who were in charge of Ebenezer Baptist church both before their deaths. He spent his education life at Morehouse College between 1944 and 1948.
Before joining the college, he was reluctant about accepting the inherited calling, but Morehouse president Benjamin E. Mays advised him to see Christianity as an avenue for driving social change. Also, George Kelsey, a religion professor at Morehouse, exposed him to the scripture and its criticism and profound truths. King admired the two educators and found interest in religious teachings, which prompted him to accept his inheritance as a pastor. He was later ordained towards the last session at Morehouse. He earned a bachelor of divinity degree from the college in 1951. He later joined Boston University.
King had no ambition to become a movement leader until Rosa Parks, an African-American woman, was arrested. Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to surrender her seat to a white passenger while traveling on a Montgomery city bus. She was reported on the claim that she acted against the segregation law (Carson & Lewis, 2020). At that time, King was twenty-six years and was just a year older into the ministry. Due to this, activists present at that time formed the Montgomery Improvement Association to boycott the transit system, and Martin Luther King Jr. was chosen as the leader of the movement. That is the point where Martin started his journey as an activist.
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Before he died on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. had participated in several movements. One of the most well-known movements that King led is the civil rights movement. It was a struggle for social justice and took place between the 1950s and 1960s. Black Americans were being discriminated against in the American law, and the movement aimed at the law applying equally to all Americans, whether black or white. Before King became the leader of the movement, the movement had fought against slavery, but discrimination was yet to be abolished, and that was the focal point of King. Blacks had continued to suffer from the devastating impact of racism, more so in the south region of America.
Martin Luther King led many events that campaigned against discrimination in the civil rights movement. One of the events was the fight for African- American rights to vote under the “Jim crow” laws. The laws stated that black people had been prohibited from using the same facilities as white people. Also, whites and blacks were not allowed to intermarry. Blacks experienced difficulties when trying to secure a job or get employment. Due to this, King intervened for those rights. Another event is the Rosa Parks situation. In December 1955, Rosa Parks was forced to give up a seat on a Montgomery bus, and when she refused, she was arrested for defying the segregation law. In an attempt to fight for Rosa’s justice and other blacks, Martin Luther King Jr. led an initiative with other activists.
The “March on Washington” event is one of the most popular events of the civil rights movement that occurred on August 28, 1923. The march involved more than 200,000 people from different races gathered in Washington to force civil rights legislation and equal employment for all (History.com Editors, 2009). The march was organized by civil rights leaders and activists Bayard Rustin, A. Philip Randolph, and Martin Luther King Jr. it took place at the Lincoln Memorial in which Martin Luther highlighted a speech that stated: “I have a Dream.” The dream was to make the American law universal to both white and black Americans (Duffy & Besel, 2010).
Lastly, he participated in a social movement that campaigned against poverty among African-Americans. Fifty years later, after Martin initiated the movement, in 2017, there was a waging of a new war on poverty (Kaur, 2019). Activists called for a multiracial and non-violent movement in the fight against poverty. It, therefore, means that Martin’s contributions still impact society up to date.
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Type of Activism
Martin Luther King Jr. was involved in both protests and boycotts types of activism. For instance, in the case of Rosa Parks, he was involved in the act of non-violent abstention for Rosa Park to be released. He organized public expressions to object laws to discrimination in other events for the march to Washington at Lincoln Memorial. The protest involved a large number of people from different races in the fight against social injustices. In all his events, he involved other activists and the public, and the protests or boycotts were peaceful and did not involve violence. Samkins (2014) confirms the types of activism that King led by saying that “Led by King, millions of blacks took to the streets for peaceful protests as well as acts of civil disobedience and economic boycotts in what some leaders describe as America’s second civil war.”
The success of the Civil Rights Movement
The movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. impacted the freedom African-Americans are enjoying today. The movement improved racial interactions and extended progress towards equality. One major positive impact of the civil rights movement is an end in segregated education (Fairclough, 1990). It was mainly influenced by an event that happened in a Central High School. The incident occurred when nine students known as Little Rock Nine were blocked from attending classes because they were black (Daugherity, 2017). This led to the promulgation of the law, and segregation of education based on race was ended. Another successful event was the fight against job opportunities and poverty. After several related events, African-Americans started enjoying equal opportunities such as job employment, access to government facilities, intermarriages, and access to suitable housing.
Martin’s leadership was fundamental to achieving social justice and equality that African-Americans have continued to enjoy for many years. However, his death was painful, considering he died at age thirty-nine while still a young and energetic leader. He was shot while standing on a balcony in Memphis, Tennessee, and breathed his last an hour later at St. Joseph’s hospital. Nevertheless, he left a legacy that cannot be alienated from a form of successful leadership and advocacy. Due to this, former president of America, Ronald Reagan initiated a holiday on every third of every January in memory of Martin Luther King Jr.
Carson, C., & Lewis, D. (2020, July 27). Martin Luther King, Jr. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Martin-Luther-King-Jr
Daugherity, B. J. (2017). Race, education, and the struggle for equality: School Desegregation in the Upper South. Reviews in American History, 45(2), 300-305. doi:10.1353/rah.2017.0043
Duffy, B., & Besel, R. (2010). Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” and the Politics of Cultural Memory: An Apostil. ANQ: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes and Reviews, 23(3), 184-191. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/0895769X.2010.496287
Fairclough, A. (1990). Historians and the civil rights movement. Journal of American Studies, 24(3), 387-398. doi:10.1017/s0021875800033697
History.com Editors. (2009, October 27). Civil rights movement. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/civil-rights-movement
Kaur, H. (2019, January 21). Social justice movement inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. waging new War on Poverty. Retrieved from https://www.wmur.com/article/social-justice-movement-inspired-by-martin-luther-king-jr-waging-new-war-on-poverty/25971884
Samkins, C. (2014, January 20). Non-violence was key to civil rights movement. Retrieved from https://www.voanews.com/usa/non-violence-was-key-civil-rights-movement#:~:text=The%20success%20of%20the%20of%20the%20American%20Civil,of%20millions%20of%20African%20Americans%20who%20fought%20