Martin Luther King Jr.: Leading Civil Rights with Nonviolence

Topics: Martin Luther King, Jr., Nonviolence, Southern Christian Leadership Conference Pages: 15 (5021 words) Published: October 8, 1999
One of the world’s best known advocates of non-violent social change strategies, Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK), synthesized ideals drawn from many different cultural traditions. Recent studies of him emphasize the extent to which his ideals were rooted in African-American religious traditions which were then shaped by his education. The image of a social activist and leader was the result of extensive formal education, strong personal values and licit ethics. This excellence in leadership can be traced to his character which is shaped by his moral values and personality. We look at MLK and these traits to reveal the rationalization of his rise to transracial leadership in our society. Through studying the life and example of Martin Luther King, Jr., we learn that his moral values of integrity, love, truth, fairness, caring, non-violence, achievement and peace were what motivated him. King is not great because he is well known, he is great because he served as the cause of peace and justice for all humans. King is remembered for his humanity, leadership and his love of his fellow man regardless of skin color. This presence of strong moral values developed King’s character which enabled him to become one of the most influential leaders of our time. Integrity is a central value in a leader’s character and it is through integrity that King had vision of the truth. The truth that one day this nation would live up to the creed, “all men are created equal”. No man contributed more to the great progress of blacks during the 1950’s and 1960’s than Martin Luther King, Jr. He was brought up believing “one man can make a difference”, and this is just what he did. Integrity has a large effect on what we think, say and do, it is through King’s thoughts and actions that enabled so many people to have trust and faith in him. Through King’s integrity he believed that America, the most powerful and richest nation in the world will lead the way to a revolution of values. This revolution will change the way society views itself, shifting from a “thing-orientated” society to a “person-orientated” society. When this occurs, King believed that racism will be capable of being conquered and this nation will be “Free at last.” King’s unconditional love for all humans was another value that strongly influenced his character and allowed him to have such excellent leadership ability. King described his meaning of love in one of his many speeches, “A Time to Break Silence”: “ When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality.”

King has been considered an extremist which he was not sure how to deal with at first. After careful consideration he believed that if he were to be called an extremist for love, it could only be taken as a compliment and he came to the realization that the world was in dire need for more extremists. King did not want to be remembered after his death by his Nobel Peace Prize or his many other awards, he wanted people to say “...that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody...And I want you to say that I tried to love and save humanity”. Even when his own life and the life of his family was threatened, King did not react with hatred or violence, he found more strength and courage and told his fellow men, “I want you to love your enemies. Be good to them. Love them and let them know you love them.” Therefore, King’s love for the human race led him to focus his ministry and speeches in obedience to Jesus Christ, who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them. King’s ability to speak the truth is another value that made him such an influential leader. This ability is one reason why King was asked to be the leader of so...

Bibliography: Ansbro, John J., Martin Luther King, Jr., The Making of a Mind, 1982, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY.

Claybourne Carson, King’s Biography, 1996, Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project
Paul E
Albert, Peter J. We Shall Overcome, Da Capo Press, New York, 1993.

Schulke, Flip. King Remembered, Pocket Books, New York, 1986.

Changed the World by Martin Luther King, Harper, San Fransisco,
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