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Martin Luther King

By BethanyBoo17 Mar 10, 2015 1402 Words
Martin Luther King was a well-known civil rights leader and activist who had a great deal of influence on American society in the 1950s and 1960s. His strong belief in non-violent protest helped set the tone of the movement. Boycotts, protests, and marches were eventually effective, and much legislation was passed against racial discrimination. However, it is arguable that he was not always successful and there were several contributions outside of his control such as: the lure of black power, the Greensboro’s Sit-ins and the Freedom Rides. To a certain extent it can be argued that Martin Luther King did contribute considerably to the civil rights movement. Throughout his time as a figurehead of the Civil Rights Campaign he promoted non-violence, setting the tone for the movement- allowing people to prove that they were worthy of being ‘equal’. Through his determination to gain equality for African Americans he united the American Front. He inspired parts of the nation of black and white people to stand up for what they saw was right whether that was through his speeches such as his most famous preach: ‘I have a dream’ at Washington or through the media attention he gained through his non-violent marches in which the black community faced great hostility and violence. Martin Luther King worked constantly to promote the Civil Right Movement; he was the driving forces behind the campaign. Even after his assassination the SCLC began to fall into a decline because it could not function without him. Luther was a fundamental aspect of the movement and without his deep rooted sense of diligence and passion for the campaign itself it can be said that the success of the Civil Right Movement rests on his shoulders. Not only did Martin unite sections of the nation the successes of his campaigns contributed to real change in legislation and attitudes. The Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) was established under the leadership of Martin Luther King in order to co-ordinate a boycott of the local buses until segregation was abolished; this is more commonly known as the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It hit the bus companies hard as they had lost 65% of their revenue. The boycott continued until the 20th of December 1956 when the Court outlawed segregation of buses. On the 21st of that month the Montgomery Bus Company desegregated their buses and in turn the boycott had ended. Martin led to a change in legislation and caused the fight for equality to become a national topic for discussion. He was the driving force behind the whole boycott, which suggests that his contribution to the movement was key in securing legislative change. His success did not stop there. In the spring of 1963, Birmingham, Alabama Martin Luther King and the SCLC launched one of the most influential campaigns of the Civil Rights Movement: Project C, better known as The Birmingham Campaign. It would be the beginning of a series of lunch counter sit-ins, marches on City Hall and boycotts on downtown merchants to protest segregation laws in the city. Martin’s peaceful demonstrations would be met with violent attacks using high-pressure fire hoses and police dogs on men, women and children alike- under the orders of ‘Bull’ Connor. Over 200 reports captured these violent attacks and dramatically stirred the nation’s conscience. Causing the nations attitudes to change dramatically- people became sympathetic towards the cause led by Martin Luther and the Civil Right Movement became international. This further led to a series of events from Kennedy’s proposal of the major civil rights bill to the march on Washington which directly led to the civil rights bill in 1964. This was a turning point for the movement- it allowed the campaign to be heard internationally; it altered the views of the American people and led to a series of events that changed legislation. This was led by the SCLC and its leader Martin Luther King highlighting how his contribution did impact the Civil Right Movement as the Birmingham Campaign was a quintessential turning point for the movement. However, it can be argued that Martin Luther King contribution to the movement was not as important as he was not always successful. In 1961 the SNCC targeted Albany, Georgia, and organised protests to end segregation. King led one protest march and got arrested. There is evidence that the Local police Chief Laurie Pritchett arranged to have him realised in order to prevent his incarceration gaining publicity. They decided no-one would be arrested and jailed; students were arrested and released. In this way there were no 'martyrs' to the cause and the nation's media were less likely to be attracted to what was going on - the opposite of what happened in Birmingham. Not only did it fail in that respect, but the basic promises that were made to the black community of Albany never led to concrete action. Led by Martin, Albany was recognised as a major defeat by the Civil Rights Movement. Therefore, confirming the idea that Martin may have contributed to the movement, but it did not always prove to make any difference. Furthermore, Martin continued to fall short of change in 1966 with the Chicago Freedom Movement. The Chicago campaign was Kings first initiative in the North. He aimed to use the same methods that were successful employed in the South to challenge the de facto segregation of Chicago’s education, housing and employment. However, during the peaceful protests and marches there were violent outbursts throughout. King told the press “I have never seen- even in Mississippi and Alabama- mobs as hostile and hate-filled as I’ve seen in Chicago”. Thus, this lead to further criticism of the leadership of Martin Luther King, the tactics used and therefore the Chicago black citizens lost faith in the SCLC. Furthermore, the campaign failed to gain any support both from the churches and trade unions as the march turned into a violent frenzy by both the white and the black community. The problems of Chicago were common to many of the northern cities, and forced king to rethink his strategy as there was no progression in the movement. Therefore, this suggests that the importance of Martins contribution as being minimal. This would be due to the fact that yes, he did attempt to make de jure change however, his efforts were shot down due to his mistaken view that people would respond the same tactics as did the South and resulting in little or no change in legislation; leading to his contribution being of little importance. Finally, there were several important developments in the movement that were outside his control such as the Greensboro sit. These campaigns were not governed by Martin, but yet by fellow civil right activist such as the SNCC - the student Non-violent Coordinating Committee. In February 1960 four local students entered a Woolworths store and sat in the ‘Whites only’ seats at the counter refusing to leave until they were served. The protest escalated; 27 students came on the second day; increasing to 300 by the fourth. These ‘Sit-ins’ continued to happen across six more states. By 1961 70,000 people had taken part in the demonstration. These ‘other’ groups made provided massive change and progression in the movement. By the end of 1961 810 towns had desegregated their public places. Six months after the campaign started, black people were finally served at the lunch counter of the Greensboro Woolworths store. Not only this but these campaigns attracted media attention, which meant that America could witness the level of persecution faced by the protesters creating mass sympathy for the movement itself. These success were complete detached from the hands of Martin Luther King and therefore the success of the Civil Right Movement does not solely lie on his shoulders, but yet on the shoulders of the black community in relation to the movement. Thus, suggesting that Martin Luther’s contribution does not account for the success of the movement and therefore it can be said that, from this evidence, it was not of any importance. In conclusion, it can be argued that Martin Luther King’s contribution was of great importance due to his successes in Washington, Birmingham as well as the Montgomery bus boycott with him heading MIA; which led to legislative change. However, even though there was this de jure change it did not work in practice

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