Biography: Martin Luther King Jr.

Topics: Civil disobedience, African American, Martin Luther King, Jr. Pages: 7 (2564 words) Published: May 29, 2006
Martin Luther King: "I've been to the mountaintop"


Martin Luther King was an American clergyman and Nobel Prize winner, one of the principal leaders of the American civil rights movement, of which he was the voice He was an advocate of non-violent protest and direct action as methods of social change. King's challenges to segregation and racial discrimination in the 1950s and 1960s helped convince many white Americans to support the cause of civil rights in the United States. After his assassination in 1968, King became a symbol of protest in the struggle for racial justice.

Martin Luther King was born in Atlanta, Georgia on 15th January, 1929. After considering careers in medicine and law, he entered the ministry.

While studying at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, King heard a lecture on Mahatma Gandhi and the nonviolent civil disobedience campaign that he used successfully against British rule in India. King became convinced that the same methods could be employed by blacks to obtain civil rights in America. King was also influenced by Henry David Thoreau and his theories on how to use nonviolent resistance to achieve social change.

King became pastor in Montgomery, Alabama. In Montgomery, like most towns in the Deep South, buses were segregated. On 1st December, 1955, Rosa Parks, a prominent member of the local NAACP, who was tired after a hard day's work, refused to give up her seat to a white man.

After the arrest of Rosa Parks, King and his friends helped organize protests against bus segregation. It was decided that black people in Montgomery would refuse to use the buses until passengers were completely integrated. The boycott lasted 13 month and eventually, the loss of revenue and a decision by the Supreme Court forced the Montgomery Bus Company to accept integration, and to desegregate the buses. King became a national figure. His book about the bus boycott, Stride Toward Freedom (1958), provided a thoughtful account of that experience and further extended King's national influence.

In 1957 King helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), an organization of black churches and ministers that aimed to challenge racial segregation

In Greensboro, North Carolina, a small group of black students read the book "stride toward freedom by MLK, started a student sit-in at the restaurant of their local Woolworth's store which had a policy of not serving black people. Within six months these kinds of sit-ins had ended restaurant and lunch-counter segregation in twenty-six southern cities. Student sit-ins were also successful against segregation in public parks, swimming pools, theaters, churches, libraries, and museums

In the early 1960s King led SCLC in a series of protest campaigns that gained national attention. An important one took place in 1961 in Albany, Georgia, where the SCLC joined local demonstrations against segregated restaurants and hotels. The Movement was successful in mobilizing massive protests, but it secured few concrete gains due to the jailing of hundreds of protesters. So, the movement was a failure.

Such a campaign did work in Birmingham, Alabama, where the SCLC joined a local protest during the spring of 1963 to end segregation at lunch counters. Hundreds of people filled the streets of Birmingham, but the police commissioner sent police officers with attack dogs and fire-fighters with high-pressure water hoses against the marchers. Scenes of young protesters being attacked by dogs were shown in newspapers and on televisions around the world. During the demonstrations, King was arrested and sent to jail. In his cell he wrote his "Letter from Birmingham Jail," which argued that individuals had the moral right and responsibility to disobey unjust laws, was widely read at the time and added to King's standing as a moral leader.

King and other black leaders then organized the 1963 March on Washington, a massive...
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