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Martin Luther King Jr.’s Impact on Civil Rights Movement


The civil rights movement began in the United States in the middle of the last century. Even though the Civil War of 1861-1865 had ended 90 years earlier, racial equality had never been established in America. White immigrants from Europe were at the root of the formation of the society in the States, and all opportunities in this society were open to them. Formally equality was universally proclaimed, but even non-Anglo-Saxon immigrants were subjected to certain restrictions in the United States for a long time. However, the most disenfranchised were the black minorities. After the end of the Civil War, as part of the course of national reconciliation, the southern states of the United States were able to legislate restrictions on the rights of blacks.

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Thus, a policy of racial segregation emerged: the white majority distanced itself from blacks in all aspects of daily life. Of course, this social pressure could not provoke protests, which grew as blacks’ living standards and education increased. As early as 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was established (Xidias 55). This organization actively advocated against segregation and lobbied on behalf of racial minorities. Martin Luther King, the most famous black rights activist in U.S. history, joined its ranks in his youth. In this paper, I would like to examine his continued influence on the civil rights movement in the United States.

Literature Review

Participation in the protest made King famous; he became a recognized informal leader of the Civil Rights Movement and entered politics. King traveled the country speaking to minorities of color, justifying their right to fight for equality, participating in protest marches, and numerous rallies. The pastor from Montgomery became so well known that his speeches drew hundreds of thousands of people. Along with his popularity among ordinary people, social scientists began to take a keen interest in King. First of all, there are many studies on the topic of King’s positioning and motivation. For example, Bruce Dierenfield writes that even though the equal rights movement gradually began to take on a radical bent in the early 1960s, King denied violence (127). He insisted that only nonviolent methods of struggle would lead to equality.

King listened to Gandhi’s ideas and the slogans of civil resistance to British rule in India. Jason Xidias notes in his book that many of the political practices of Gandhism King were successfully implemented in the United States (58). He also notes the significant impact of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. “It is an outstanding example of oratory” (Xidias 59). Another popular topic for research in King’s influence on the civil rights movement in the United States after his death. John Frederick Martin notes that despite the death of the spiritual leader, the civil rights movement has not lost its footing (67). The fight against racial segregation continued. National minorities have received several social preferences as compensation for centuries of oppression in the last thirty years. Martin Luther King received national recognition.

Since 1986, King Memorial Day has been celebrated at the highest level in the United States. Many streets, squares, educational institutions, libraries, and hospitals across the country are named after the legendary preacher (Xidias 163). Before the advent of the Civil Rights Movement, the U.S. was a divided society, where the rights of a large part of its citizens were infringed. While experts acknowledge that King’s work did create a new reality, they note that modern America has not become less divisive than it was 50 years ago; just the nature of the controversy has changed (Xidias 123). Instead of overt racial segregation, U.S. citizens have received the black revanchism of those who believe that their ancestors have been unfairly offended for centuries, and now they are demanding compensation. The restoration of racial minority rights has solved old problems. However, it has created new ones that cannot be solved within the accepted practice of political correctness.

Personal Research Results

I believe that Martin Luther King, Jr. did have a significant impact on the development of the civil rights movement. One of his major successes is that in 1964 U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, which prohibited discrimination based on race (Xidias 59). King attended the signing and enactment ceremony. He continued to push for a law to ensure that black Americans could not be disenfranchised through discriminatory practices such as literacy tests. Consequently, in 1965, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law (Xidias 60). After the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., his case for developing a civil rights movement continued to live on. In a posthumously published essay entitled “A Testament of Hope,” King urged people to remain committed to nonviolent action, but he warned that “justice for black Americans cannot be achieved without radical changes in society” (Shelby 25).

King’s legacy for the equal rights movement includes popularizing nonviolent protest. In a radio address King gave during a 1959 visit to India, he said: “Today we no longer have a choice between violence and nonviolence; it is either nonviolence or non-existence” (Xidias 148). King inspired people in other countries to change society through nonviolent methods of struggle, from the people who opposed the Soviet occupation of Poland to Nelson Mandela, who advocated an apartheid end in South Africa. Another of King’s legacies is the fight against prejudice and the pursuit of social justice. During the 1963 March on Washington, King declared that people should not be judged by the color of their skin but by their inner content (Xidias 163). The King Center in Atlanta is a living memory of how he envisioned a free, equal, and empowered world without racism or any form of discrimination.

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In conclusion, Martin Luther King, Jr. had a truly significant impact on the development of the civil rights movement. He fought for equal rights for black Americans throughout his life, and some of his practices persisted after his death. For example, it may be the practice of nonviolent protest and the pursuit of social justice by any means available. In fact, Martin Luther King, Jr. created a new reality free of rape segregation. Thanks to the preacher’s efforts, several vital pieces of legislation were passed prohibiting discrimination based on rapeseed. However, there is still a wide field of inquiry into the activities of the great civil rights preacher. For example, one can explore the psychology of King’s followers and his ways of influencing them. Of excellent research, interest should be King’s speeches, which are a model of oratory even today. Thus, it is possible to investigate King’s ways of social influence to achieve his goals. Such methods will be relevant to the present day, giving a new spin to exploring oratory and social influence.

Works Cited

Dierenfield, Bruce J. The civil rights movement: The black freedom struggle in America. 2nd Ed., Routledge, 2021. Web.

Martin, John F. Civil rights and the crisis of liberalism: The democratic party 1945–1976. Routledge, 2019. Web.

Shelby, Thomas. To shape a new world: Essays on the political philosophy of Martin Luther King Jr. Harvard College, 2018.

Xidias, Jason. An analysis of Martin Luther King Jr.’s: Why we cannot wait. Macat Library, 2017. Web.

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