How Important Was Martin Luther King to the Success of the Civil Rights Movement

Topics: African American, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jim Crow laws Pages: 5 (2318 words) Published: November 14, 2012
How important was Martin Luther King to the success of the civil rights movement? ‘Nothing mattered more to king than being an outstanding preacher. Martin Luther King had an exceptional personal some state. He was a very proud and an outspoken man. He had been ‘conditioned’ from the mere age of nine and ordained in a black church for later life purposes (1). At a young age racism surrounded him and was affected first hand. He was abused by a white mill owner purely on the colour of his skin. He also witnessed other black people suffering from violence when he saw a white mob attack and barbarically murder a black man. King was a very opinionated person and became a lead figure head publicly known on a national scale. This came to be evident from 1955 onwards when he represented the Montgomery bus boycott. However prior to this boycott in 1955, in 1954 he began to work as a pastor in Montgomery. King had a very likeable personality and rarely missed the opportunity to publicly speak in front of large crowds. He even flagged a marathon from Selma to Montgomery just to address a crowd regarding the civil rights movement and his feelings representative of many others. It is clear to see that Martin Luther King’s aims were to gain equality for black people. He wanted to draw attention to the racial inequality on a national level and more importantly challenge the status quo with ruthless determination that a majority of black people had accepted but the questions remains how pivotal was his presence to the success of the movement. This determination can be portrayed in some of his actions for example he would rather have faced a jail sentence rather than a ten dollar fine not due to money but with regards to principle. Martin Luther King is key to the civil rights movement as he could be seen by some as a role model and setting the principles for the early stage of the movement while there was little progress. Many have commonly noticed his methods in tackling issues are similar to that of other people such as Gandhi who used peaceful non-violent protests to oppose British Rule in India and achieved his aims this way. John White the historian argues that possibly his methods and beliefs derived from much earlier in his life and from his undergraduate reading of Henry David Thoreau’s essay on ‘Civil Disobedience’(2). He also argues that some of his morals and principles were innate and derived from his African-American Baptist Heritage which strong held beliefs that through ‘collective and redemptive suffering blacks would demonstrate morality of their cause and convert their oppressors’. His upbringing is more likely to be an effect as to the way he went about the civil rights movement as these values were held close to him and his family. His principles, values and morals were always constantly outlined and drawn attention to throughout his life especially in speeches. In his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech in 1963 he yet again mentions that ‘we’ referring to all black people must remain strong in refraining from use of violence to achieve their aims. The Montgomery Bus Boycott is said to be one of the most important parts of the civil rights movement as it marked the events in which King came to have an increasing role in representing the people and where he started to gain national attention. On an evening in December 1955 after a long day at work Rosa Parks boarded a bus to reach home. She was sitting on the fifth row which was the first row in the ‘coloured section’. Due to Jim Crow segregation laws, this prevented black and white people sitting together on the bus or on the same row. Jim Crow laws were passed after the American Civil war to discriminate black people and segregate them from the rest of society. White passengers were to sit at the front of the bus and black people had their designated section at the back of the bus. They were also to stand up if any white passengers came on the bus regardless of the section in...
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