Martin Luther King, Jr. is the most well-known defender of black Americans’ civil rights. He was born on the 15th of January, 1929, in the family of a Baptist minister in Atlanta. King grew up at the time when segregation laws were seen and accepted as a norm by the majority of people in power (Shelby & Terry, 2018). King cared deeply about the people around him and struggled to change this brutal daily reality. In his fight against segregation and discrimination, he was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas of nonviolent resistance and used them in his acts of protest.
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Martin Luther King embarked on his political struggle for racial equality the same year he received his doctorate. The very first action, organized by King, lasted more than a year and led to victory. The US Supreme Court’s ruling declared that the racial segregation that took place in Alabama was unconstitutional. In the course of his political activities, King visited India to get acquainted with the teachings and ideas of Mahatma Gandhi. Some of King’s speeches became renowned in terms of public speaking (Livingston, 2020). For example, King’s “I have a dream” speech became one of the most famous speeches in history: in 1963, more than 300 thousand people were listening to it at the same time.
One of the most important acts of protest supported by King was the Montgomery bus boycott. It was a campaign that lasted about a year and aimed to protest against racial discrimination in the public transportation system of Montgomery, Alabama. The campaign started when Rosa Parks, a seamstress from Montgomery, refused to offer her seat to a white man on a bus (Livingston, 2020). King helped to organize the protests, where his talent as an orator allowed him to reach out to more people. The result of this campaign was the Browder v. Gayle case, in which the District Court for the Middle District of Alabama ruled that bus segregation was unconstitutional (Sokol, 2018). In 1956, the Supreme Court affirmed the ruling, and this became one of the main victories of King’s African-American civil rights movement.
After that, King co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, becoming its first president. He traveled across the South and encouraged people to join the movement of nonviolent resistance. He was arrested several times but never left his civil rights activities. One of the major results of his work is the Civil Rights Act, signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964 (Livingston, 2020). This landmark law banned segregation and discrimination in all major areas of life, such as public accommodations and employment. Another major victory was the Voting Rights Act, signed by Johnson a year later. This legislation outlawed discrimination in voting, as well as the use of literacy tests that black citizens had to do in order to be allowed to vote.
Mentioned above are only some of the highly important contributions that Marin Luther King, Jr. made through his speeches, statements, and actions. Despite the fact that he was assassinated when he was only 39, the mission of the legendary preacher did not end with his death (Shelby & Terry, 2018). The civil rights movement he led has contributed significantly to the fight against racial segregation, and King’s name became a symbol of equal rights not only in the United States but all around the world.
Livingston, A. (2020). Power for the powerless: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s late theory of civil disobedience. The Journal of Politics, 82(2), 700-713. Web.
Shelby, T., & Terry, B. M. (2018). To shape a new world: Essays on the political philosophy of Martin Luther King, Jr. Harvard University Press.
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Sokol, J. (2018). The heavens might crack: The death and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Hachette UK.