How Significant Was Martin Luther King Jr. to the Black Civil Rights Movement?

Topics: Martin Luther King, Jr., Montgomery Bus Boycott, African American Pages: 16 (5676 words) Published: November 18, 2012
How significant was Martin Luther King Jr. to the black civil rights movement?

There are variations in the exact dates of when the black civil rights movement took place, however an agreement has been made upon 1948-1968. This movement was the result of years of tension between black and white Americans and the rights denied them. With slavery eradicated in 1865, the black community believed that by the 1900s they would be completely free, however, they were still subject to harsh discrimination and often acts of violence. Much of this discrimination was due to the Jim Crow Laws; however when they were challenged in the 1950’s and were found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in many cases, it caused a great amount of tension due to the conflicting ideas and beliefs of the black community and the white elitists. One civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, became the most famous African-American in our history from his work in the movement, but how significant was he when we consider the other factors that influenced the movement at this time? To fully understand the reasons for the black civil rights movement we must look to the cause of the people’s grievances. The black community were unhappy with the way they were being treated, however this treatment was acceptable to the authorities under the Jim Crow Laws. These laws allowed discrimination against African Americans, stopping them from entering certain schools, restaurants and hotels, and allowed legal segregation of public transport. The ‘separate but equal’ doctrine was used to justify segregation, however it was a wide known fact that their worlds were not ‘equal’. There were several civil rights groups dedicated to gaining more rights for black citizens. One of the most influential groups was the NAACP. The NAACP is one of the oldest, largest and most widely recognised civil rights organizations and it still exists today. They now have over half a million members who continue to campaign for equal opportunities: “The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.” Several cases of discrimination were taken to the Supreme Court in the early 1900’s, however the court always voted against the African American in question; that was until the Brown vs. Board of Education case of 1951. This was a case attempting to allow a young African American girl to be allowed into a white school. The child’s father asked the NAACP for help, and together they requested an injunction to forbid segregation in the public schools in that area. In a testimony, an expert witness, Dr. Hugh Speer, stated that:

“…if the coloured children are denied the experience in school of associating with white children, who represent 90 percent of our national society in which these colored children must live, then the colored child’s curriculum is being greatly curtailed. The Topeka curriculum or any school curriculum cannot be equal under segregation.” Although the court ruled in favour of the Board of Education, Brown and the NAACP appealed to the court, which led to their case being combined with other cases against segregation in schools in the surrounding areas. The case was deliberated for a lengthy amount of time but when the court had finally reached a decision on May 17th, 1954 it ruled in favour of the plaintiffs and ordered for schools across America to be desegregated. At the time this was seen as a great step towards further desegregation, however progress was slow: “By 1957 less than 12 per cent of the 6300 school districts in the south had been integrated.” The next step towards desegregation was the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955. One of the NAACP’s most well-known acts at the time of the movement was their involvement in the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. The boycott was a reaction to the arrest of Rosa...
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