Martin Luther King, Jr., was a Baptist preacher & social activist who led the civil rights movement in the USA from the mid-1950s until he died in 1968. King was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, and died on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. King leadership was critical to the success of that movement in abolishing the legal segregation of African Americans in the South & other parts of the United States. King gained national notoriety as the leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which advocated for nonviolent means to win civil rights, such as the huge March on Washington (1963). In 1964, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
King grew up in a comfortable middle-class home entrenched in the heritage of Southern Black ministry: both his father & maternal grandfather were Baptist preachers. King's parents were both college graduates, and his father-in-law had replaced his father-in-law as pastor of Atlanta's prominent Ebenezer Baptist Church. The family lived on Auburn Avenue, sometimes known as "Sweet Auburn," the bustling "Black Wall Street" that housed some of the country's largest & most successful Black businesses and churches before the civil rights movement. Martin grew up in a lovely extended family and received an excellent education.
This stable upbringing, however, did not shield King from the prejudices that were prevalent in the South at the time. When King was six years old, one of his white playmates told him that his parents would no longer let him play with King since the children were now attending segregated schools. In these early years, King was most attached to his maternal grandmother, whose death in 1941 left him shocked and unsettled. The twelve year old King attempted suicide by jumping from a 2nd story window after learning about her deadly heart attack while witnessing a parade without his parents' consent.
At the age of 15, King enrolled at Morehouse College in Atlanta as part of a unique wartime program designed to increase enrollment by enrolling promising high-school students like King. However, before starting college, King spent the summer on a tobacco farm in Connecticut; it was his first long stay away from home and his first significant exposure to race relations outside of the segregated South. He was taken aback by how calmly the races coexisted in the North. "Negroes and whites attend the same church," he wrote to his parents. "I never thought a person of my race would be able to eat anywhere." This summer in the North only reinforced King's growing antipathy toward racial segregation.
At Morehouse, King was drawn to courses in medicine and law, but these were overshadowed in his final year by a resolve to enter the ministry, as his father had encouraged. The college president, Benjamin Mays, a social gospel warrior whose brilliant oratory and progressive views had made a lasting effect on King's father, was King's mentor at Morehouse. Mays, who was committed to fighting racial inequality, criticized the African American community for being complacent in the face of injustice, and he encouraged the Black church into social action by criticizing its emphasis on the hereafter rather than the here and now; it was a call to service that the teenage King did not miss. He graduated from Morehouse College in 1948.
King then attended Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, for three years, where he learned about Mohandas Gandhi's nonviolent philosophy as well as the teachings of contemporary Protestant theologian King, spent the following three years at Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, learning about Mohandas Gandhi's nonviolent philosophy as well as the ideas of contemporary Protestant theologians. King, known for his oratory talents, was voted president of Crozer's student body, which was virtually entirely made up of white pupils. In a letter of reference for King, a Crozer professor said"The fact that a brown guy should be elected to and be popular [in] such a position among our student body, which is predominantly Southern in the constitution, is no mean recommendation."Following his graduation from Crozer, King went on to Boston University to explore man's relationship with God, earning a doctoral degree (1955) for a dissertation titled "A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman."
King, Jr.'s Montgomery bus boycott
While in Boston, Martin met Coretta Scott, a native Alabaman attending the New England Conservatory of Music. They got married in 1953 and have four kids. Martin had been pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, for slightly more than one year when the city's small group of civil rights advocates decided to challenge racial segregation on the city's public bus system following the December 1, 1955, incident in which Rosa Parks, an African American woman, refused to surrender her bus seat to a white passenger and was arrested for violating segregation law of the city. To boycott the transit system, activists organized the Montgomery Improvement Association and chose King as their leader. He had the benefit of being a young, well-educated man who was too new in town to have developed enemies; he was much respected, and it was assumed that his family ties and professional status would allow him to find another pastorate if the boycott failed.
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference is a Christian leadership conference in the South.
Recognizing the need for a mass organization to capitalize on the success of the Montgomery civil rights movement, King established the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which provided him with a base of operations throughout the South as well as a national platform from which to speak. King delivered speeches across the country and met with religious and civil rights groups both at home and abroad to discuss race-related concerns. In February 1959, King and his party were greeted warmly by India's Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and others; Gandhian concepts of nonviolent disobedience (satyagraha), King became increasingly convinced that nonviolent resistance was the most powerful weapon available to oppressed and weak people in their struggle for freedom. King went to Africa for inspiration as well. "The largest single international effect on American Negro students has been the liberation fight in Africa," he stated. "I frequently hear them claim that if their African brothers can overcome colonialism, surely the American Negro can overcome Jim Crow."
King, Jr.'s letter from the Birmingham jail
When police used dogs & fire hoses on demonstrators in Birmingham, Alabama, in the spring of 1963, Martin's campaign to remove segregation at lunch counters and in hiring practices garnered national attention. King, along with a significant number of his supporters, including hundreds of youngsters, was imprisoned. King supporters, however, did not include all of Birmingham's Black clergy, and he was strongly opposed by some of the white clergies who had released a statement asking African Americans not to participate in the demonstrations.
Near the end of the Birmingham campaign, King joined other civil rights leaders in organizing the historic March on Washington to bring together the various forces for nonviolent change and to emphasize to the country and the world the urgency of resolving the racial problem in the United States. On August 28, 1963, more than 2 Lakhs people peacefully rallied in the contour of the Abraham Lincoln Memorial to demand equal justice under the law for all Americans. The emotional depth and prophetic character of King's famous "I Have a Dream" address, in which King underlined his hope that all men will be brothers someday, elevated the masses here.
As King had hoped, the rising tide of civil rights agitation had a strong impact on national opinion, resulting in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which authorized the federal government is enforcing the desegregation of public accommodations and has made discrimination in publicly owned facilities and employment illegal. The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the King in Oslo in December, capping a historic year. "I accept this honor today with steadfast faith in America and ambitious faith in humanity's destiny.", In his acceptance speech, King made a statement. "I refuse to accept the notion that man's current 'isness' renders him ethically incapable of reaching up for the eternal 'oughtness' that always confronts him."Martin Luther King, Jr.'s final years were fraught with difficulties.
The first symptoms of civil rights movement opposition to King's tactics emerged during the March 1965 demonstrations in Selma, Alabama, which were intended to highlight the need for a federal voting-rights statute that would provide legal support for the enfranchisement of African Americans in the South. King planned the first march from Selma to Montgomery's state capitol building, although he did not lead it. State troopers using nightsticks and tear gas turned back the marchers despite a federal court injunction and efforts from Washington to persuade him to abandon it, he was adamant about leading a second march. He led a procession of 1,500 demonstrators, both black and white, across Pettus Bridge outside Selma until they came to a state police barricade. Instead of continuing and risking a confrontation, he led his followers to kneel in prayer before abruptly turning back. This move cost King the support of many young radicals who were already criticizing him for being overly cautious. Despite robust but not entirely convincing denials, the idea of a "compromise" with federal and local authorities persisted in the Selma case. Nonetheless, the country was aroused, resulting in the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In the spring of 1968, Martin's preparations for a Poor People's March to Washington were derailed by a trip to Memphis, Tennessee, to support a sanitation workers' strike. Many of his fans and biographers believe King sensed his death was approaching. "I've seen the promised land," On April 3, the night before he died, King spoke to a crowd at Memphis' Mason Temple Church. “I may be unable to accompany you but I want you to know tonight that as a people, we will attain the promised land." A sniper's bullet murdered King the next day while he was standing on the 2nd story balcony of the Lorraine Motel, where King and his colleagues were staying. Riots and disruptions erupted in over 100 cities across the country as a result of the tragedy. On March 10, 1969, the alleged assassin, a white man named James Earl Ray, pled guilty to the murder and received a 99-year jail sentence.
Martin Luther kinKing. and Nonviolence
It is neither foolish nor impossible to achieve world peace using peaceful means. All other approaches have failed. Nonviolence is a good way to start. Those of us who believe in this way have the opportunity to be voices of reason, rationality, and understanding among the voices of violence, hatred, and emotion. We can very well create a peaceful mood from which a peaceful system can be formed. Initially, King knew little about Gandhi and rarely used the word "nonviolence." King loved violence even in self-defense. Pacifists advised King by presenting him with the option of nonviolent resistance, arguing that it would be a better way to achieve his civil rights goals than self-defense. The King then pledged that he would no longer employ arms personally. The trip to India (in 1959) had an impact on King, increasing his concept of nonviolent resistance and his devotion to America's civil rights cause. "I am more convinced than ever before that the strategy of non-violent resistance is the most powerful weapon available to oppressed people in their quest for justice and human dignity," King said in a radio address in India. Later, he solely fought with the weapons of truth, soul energy, non-injury, and courage.
Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Legacy
As with the lives of other key historical personalities, successive generations of researchers have interpreted King's life in various ways, with many emphasizing the critical role of local Black leaders in the African-american protest movements of the 1950s and 1960s. Accepting that grassroots activists such as Rosa Parks, Fred Shuttlesworth, & others paved the ground for King's ascent to national fame, biographers and historians have called into doubt the notion that Southern Black protest movements relied solely on King's charismatic leadership. Nonetheless, King’s studies continue to recognize his special leadership role. For example, though King frequently downplayed his role in the Montgomery bus boycott, his inspirational leadership and speeches helped to turn a local protest about bus seats into a historically significant event. More broadly, King’s studies have concluded that his most significant contribution to the modern African American liberation struggle was to connect Black ambitions to transcendent, widely accepted democratic and Christian ideals. He motivated participants to think that their cause was just and consistent with historic American egalitarian values while assisting grassroots leaders in mobilizing African Americans for long-term mass struggles. King also appealed to the consciences of all americans, resulting in widespread public support for civil rights reform. His nonviolent protest and interracial cooperation policy enabled him to battle effectively against the Southern system of legalized racial segregation and discrimination but also proved insufficient during his later years when he sought to tackle national-scale racial and economic problems.