Martin Luther King is the most important member of the Civil Rights movement of the 20th century. There has never been, nor will there ever be, one who is able to best the accomplishments which King achieved, as well as the inspiration which he motivated within millions of Americans, both who had been oppressed and those who felt the apathy for the oppressed, yet had never been inspired to act on their convictions. Martin Luther King brought these two people together in record numbers and in a way never seen before or since and incited within them, the desire to change the culture in which they lived and been affected by, for too long. The name of Martin Luther King was first brought onto the national stage with his involvement in the Birmingham Bus Boycott in 1955. (Garrow, 1981 pg. 123) Rosa Parks, a seamstress on her way home from work, refused to give up her seat to a white man while riding home on the bus one day. She was later given a fine. However, this enforcement of the law, something which had not changed over the last 60 years since the inception of the Jim Crow south, ignited a firestorm within the African American community. A boycott was called on all public transportation in the city of Birmingham Alabama. After 382 days of the boycott, the city officials ended racial segregation on public transportation. (Garrow, 1981 pg. 147) King was arrested during the campaign and his involvement, as well as a large availability to the national press, the name of Martin Luther King was flung onto the national stage.
King, a Baptist preacher who had previously rejected any role in the civil rights movement in order to continue to care for his church, now devoted all of his time to the civil rights movement and would begin a dizzying and controversial rise in the history of the civil rights movement as well as in American history. There were a few characteristics that helped to make King stand out. The first was that he preached non violence civil disobedience. This was in direct opposition to the stance that the Nation of Islam and another civil rights leader, Malcolm X preached as well as the future stance of the Black Panther Party which would come into power in the mid 1960’s. It was King’s beliefs as a Christian minister, as well as being motivated and inspired by the actions of Gandhi; the non violent spiritual leader of India who helped to eradicated the presence of Great Britain from their country in 1948. King stated: “Since being in India. I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity. In a real sense, Gandhi embodied in his life, certain universal principles that are inherent in the moral structure of the universe, and these principles are as inescapable as the law of gravitation.” (Abernathy, 1989 pg. 199) Despite criticism from other factions of the civil rights movement, King would always adhere to this ideology.
The first aspect and the most powerful of Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, is the argument that King makes on behalf of his actions and the actions of other African Americans who are seeking their equal treatment under the law. Towards the end of his letter, King talks about the two spheres of African American thought that which are counterproductive. The first being those African Americans who have been so beat down and oppressed for so long, that the have become apathetic towards the cause for freedom. The second however, are the African Americans, Malcolm X, specifically, who seek to express their frustrations in colorful terms and through hatred, violence and separation from the society by calling white people devils and other derogatory terms. Together, both create a classic within American literature: Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. King’s opinion is not to be ignored nor confused with what it was in reality....
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