Martin Luther King Jr.: A Civil Rights Activist
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a very influential person to the civil rights movement who made some of the greatest contributions to end legal segregation, thus changing society for the better. He was one of the most respected African Americans during the civil rights movement. He did not want anyone to be discriminated against because of their race or their skin color. He set his ground when it came to fulfilling his dream. Although he faced many challenges he never gave up.
Martin Luther King was born on January 15, 1929. His name was originally Michael Luther King, but was later changed to Martin after the sixteenth century reformer (Cadet). Martin Luther King’s life growing up was not easy; there was racism, but that did not bring him down. He was successful in school; he was very intelligent. He skipped ninth and twelfth grade; he started going to college at age fifteen (“Martin Luther King”). When King started college, he went to Morehouse College and received his bachelor’s degree in sociology (“Martin Luther King”). He went to Crozer Theological Seminary and received his degree in divinity and later received his doctorate at Boston University (“Martin Luther King”). He was recognized by many colleges and universities in the United States (“A Biographical Sketch”). He was also recognized by a few foreign countries (“A Biographical Sketch”). He did more than what any other person did at the age of fifteen, despite so much racism. King wanted people to see that one does not need to be a certain race to achieve great deeds in life. King met Coretta Scott while he was working on his doctorate. He married her June 1953. He had to spend his wedding night at a funeral home owned by an African American couple, because no hotel wanted to let them spend the night (Cadet). They had four children, Yolanda, Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott, and Bernice. His wife was also a civil rights activist. Martin Luther King was a very important figure in the Civil Rights Movement. Throughout his life as a civil rights activist, he was arrested many times. In 1955 he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The Montgomery Bus Boycott occurred when Rosa Parks did not want to give up her seat. In the 1900’s blacks and whites were separated, they went to different schools, they drinks from different water fountains, and blacks had to sit in the back of the bus while whites could sit anywhere they wanted (Branch). The Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted 381 days. It cost the bus companies millions of dollars (“Montgomery Bus Boycott”). In 1951 King travelled to India, because he wanted to study Gandhi’s principles for non-violent protesting. He used Gandhi’s principles many times in his fight against racial discrimination (“Martin Luther King”). On June 23, 1963, he led the freedom walk in Detroit, Michigan. More than 125,000 people participated. Many races participated in this walk (“Martin Luther King”). On August 28, 1963, the historic march on Washington, D.C, for jobs, freedom, and racial equality took place. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream “speech (“Martin Luther King”). ABC and NBC had cut away soap operas in the afternoon so that the people of the United States could watch King give his speech (Branch 64). On October 14, 1964 he received the Nobel Peace Prize for fighting against racial inequalities with no violence (Branch 109). At age thirty-five he was the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize. On November 27, 1967 he announced the poor people campaign to create jobs and freedom for all races. (Branch 107) King protested against the Vietnam War, he did not like how America was at war with them. He stated “…They must see Americans as strange liberators… somehow this madness must cease…” (Branch 155). His protests were somewhat successful. He was not the only one who protested against the war. Even with protesting it took a few years for the troops to come home from Vietnam. King was assassinated April 4, 1968, at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. At age thirty-nine, his autopsy revealed that he had the heart of a sixty-year-old due to heavy stress (Cadet). There are over 900 streets in America named after Martin Luther King. There are also a few schools named after him (“Martin Luther King Jr.”). From 1957-1968 he gave 2,500 speeches, he wrote five books, and published many articles in newspapers and magazines. (“Martin Luther King”). From 1957 until 1968 he traveled more than six million miles. He was voted the second most admired person after Mother Theresa. He was also voted the third greatest American of all time. He is one of the ten martyrs who have a statue at Westminster Abbey, London (“10 Little Known Facts”). On November 2, 1983 President Ronald Regan signed a bill to declare Martin Luther King Jr., day to remember all that he did for the civil rights movement. He was the first African American to be given a holiday (“Martin Luther King Jr.”) Martin Luther King changed the civil rights movement forever. He created an impact that will never be forgotten. He changed the lives of not only African Americans but also other immigrants and people of color. He dedicated his whole life to change society and he did an amazing job. He did not completely demolish racism, but there is less racism not than there was back in the 1900’s. He said, “I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with the little white boys and girls…” King’s dream came true thanks to the dedication he put into fighting for what he believed in.
Branch, Taylor. The King Years. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998. Print. Cadet, Danielle. "10 Things You May Not Have Known About Martin Luther King Jr." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 21 Jan. 2013. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.
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