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Assess the importance of Martin Luther King to the success of the civil rights movement in the USA from the period 1950-1968

Martin Luther King is one of the most significant leaders of a civil right movement in history. He was extremely important in the success of the civil rights movement in the USA from 1950-1968. Born on January 15 1929 in Atlanta Georgia, Martin Luther King was a black-American, with strong religious views. He became a Baptist minister early in his life. Because he lived through an era where segregation of blacks and whites was still allowed, he insisted on change. He believed that God “created black and white people equally”. Even though slavery had been abolished in 1869, most black people still lived in poverty, were not allowed to vote and often segregated in public places. Formation of white religious based organisations who believed that the world should be ridden of the black race was a major threat to the African-Americans and their integration into society. They demonstrated violent acts of assault, lynching and murder against black people, particularly in the southern states. Martin Luther King was important as he led the civil rights movement with an ultimate goal of equality between black and white Americans. Martin Luther King became the leader for the civil rights movement in 1957. King along with other civil rights activists encouraged non-violent policies and acts that led to the success of the movement. Such acts included the Montgomery bus boycott, formation of Racial Equality groups and ‘sit-in’ demonstrations. Kings ability to inspire a nation were shown in his bravery of leading freedom marches and initiating meetings in some of America’s most “threatening” southern states such as Alabama and Mississippi. Above all King’s ability to give inspirational speeches against injustice, such as “I have a dream” in 1963 were acts which gained federal attention and publicity, leading to the establishment of the Civil Rights Act. However not all black activists and people agreed with Martin Luther’s policies and thought that he was causing more trouble than helping the African-American cause. Malcolm X, the leader of the Black Panthers Party and ‘Black Power’ movement was a major activist who was not a supporter of Martin Luther King’s thoughts and policies. Instead, they believed that black Americans should have their own US state, rather than live in equality among all blacks and whites. Therefore a lot of once northern civil-right followers converted to these ‘Black-Power’ ideals. This affected King’s impact on the civil rights movement, especially in his final years.

Even though some groups within America rejected his beliefs and morals, Martin Luther King was without doubt a leading figure in the success of the civil rights movement. His ideal of non-violent protests was the dominant force in the desegregation of blacks and whites within America, especially during its decade of greatest change from 1957-1968. Martin Luther King made his first impact on the Civil Rights movement after protesting about Montgomery, Alabama’s segregated bus system laws. The laws stated that “black people were not allowed to sit in the same seat or section of the bus as a white person”. This statement was first protested against on the 1st December, 1955 when Rosa Parks, an African-American civil rights activist, refused to give up her seat to a white man. It was after her arrest when Martin Luther King made his first mark on the movement. He was elected leader of a group called the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). King stated in his first speech as newly elected leader: “Right here in Montgomery, when the history books are written in the future somebody will have to say, “there lived a race of people, a black people...a people who had the moral courage to stand up for their rights.” King stressed to the 50, 000 black people living in Montgomery, the best way to protest was to take a...
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