In my unit 5 project I will discuss the life of Martin Luther King Jr. I will define how his personal ideologies might have contributed to his assassination. I will discuss the implications of his assassinations from a sociological perspective. All through the discussions, I will explore his life and journey as freedom leader and his will to gain justice via nonviolent and peaceful protest against racial discrimination and oppressions. Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. He was destined to be a preacher like his father and after seminary became the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama at the age of 25. King believed that black and white people should resist laws that they thought unjust. If necessary, he thought, they should disobey such laws. But King also said that they should be ready to accept punishment for breaking such laws. In some cases, they should even go to jail. He had grown up with the injustices in the South, and it did not take him long to join in the fight. He led the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 in response to Rosa Parks’ arrest for refusing to give up her seat. He was arrested, but ultimately ended racial segregation on Montgomery Public Buses. Now he was not the first person to champion civil rights, but he was arguably the best known. It is difficult to say his name without including the words civil rights “leader” in the same sentence. When we think of Martin Luther King as a leader, the first thought that comes to my mind was his ability to make stirring, emotionally arousing speeches. I think we need to look below the surface of his inspirational speech making ability to see what the real essence of his leadership was. He was a leader because he challenged the status quo; he called for change, in this case, for justice for African-Americans. King promoted a better way, a new direction. He showed courage to stand up for what he believed in the face of real risks to his safety (http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1964/king-bio.html). King was generally quiet. He listened while others argued, often angrily and at length, and then he would calmly sum up the debate and identify a way forward. From the outset of his career in Montgomery in 1955, right through to his death in 1968, King had a remarkable ability to get people who would otherwise be constantly feuding to work together. He was consistently reluctant to disunite relations with anyone who might help the cause. This was particularly important because a by-product of racism was a pronounced tendency to conflict between groups. King became the vital centre - a point of balance and unity. Probably his biggest attribute is that he genuinely cared for the betterment of all people. The biggest point of the campaign for Black equality came on August 28, 1963, when King led 250,000 followers in the march on Washington, a nonviolent demonstration of solidarity dramatize Black discontent and demand an open, desegregated society with equal justice for all citizens regardless of race. A goal of the march was passage of a comprehensive civil rights bill to insure integrated education, equal access to public accommodations, protection of voting rights, nondiscriminatory employment practices and protection from police brutality. His speech, entitled “I have a dream”, acclaimed as the most memorable moment of the day, King recounted his dream for an integrated society. The march provided new impetus to the civil rights movement and helped solidify the recognition of King as one of the most important spokesmen for the Black cause. But King took this a step further by arguing for government programs that would benefit the disadvantaged of all races. It had taken bravery to confront segregation in the South, but it took equal courage to demand a massive redistribution of wealth and power to the underprivileged. I am sure that many participants during the civil rights movement wanted to quit because it was either too hard, or more likely too risky, but King was able to inspire large numbers of people to a cause that mattered, one that was much bigger than the individual person (Farber, (1994), p 67-78; http://www.archives.gov/research/jfk/select-committee-report/part-2-king-findings.html). King began to express doubts about the United States' role in the Vietnam War. In his speech appearance at the New York City Riverside Church, he spoke strongly against the US role in the war. He believed that the war took the money and resources that could have been spent on social welfare services like the war on poverty. The United States Congress was spending more and more on the military and less and less on anti poverty programs at the same time. He summed up this aspect by saying “A nation that continues year and year to spend more money on military defense than programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death”. King challenged the largest defense contractors, the weapons, hardware, and armament industries, that all would lose a big amount of money as a result of the end of the war. (http://www.ratical.com/ratville/JFK/MLKactOstate.html). Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968 at Memphis, Tennessee apparently by a white man, most likely in alliance with others still unidentified. Word spread like wildfire when the news of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination hit the public and a wave of sorrow spread across the nation. With rage, sadness, and hopelessness in the public eye, clearly the assassination hurt more than just one man, it hurt a nation. Some 100,000 people attended his funeral on April 9 in Atlanta. A white escaped convict, James Earl Ray, was arrested for the murder. He pleaded guilty and in March 1969 was sentenced to 99 years in prison. In 1997, however, he claimed that he was forced into confession, and made a plea for another trial, a move that had the support of some civil rights figures, including the King family, but Ray died a year later. Martin Luther King Jr.’s opposition to the Vietnam War regarded him as enemy of the State. His determination to lead a Poor People’s March on Washington combined with variable public priorities and speeches were increasingly alluded to his possible death. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Attorney, friend, and family believed that the assassination was a result of conspiracy involving government official to silence the leader of America’s non-violent civil rights and anti-war movement. After thirty years of investigations, theories and speculation, the evidence has pretty much all been gathered and it is possible to draw a conclusion that satisfies the reasonable observer. (http://www.ratical.com/ratville/JFK/MLKactOstate.html; http://www.maryferrell.org/wiki/index.php/Martin_Luther_King_Assassination).
Many of us found an unforgiving truth in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s murder. I believe it proved that love and forgiveness were useless against hatred. But others remembered his dream. For them, the fulfillment of that dream remained as the work for all Americans. And while he is no longer alive, King’s words and principles are still relevant to today’s society, where hate, war, and inequality flourish. Facing a world of oppression and intolerance, King lived with tolerance, love, and peace; inspired hope in the midst of confusion and hopelessness; and motivated thousands of people to stand up for their rights. As every day we live in a world immeasurably better because of the life of Martin Luther King Jr., we should celebrate