Free Essay on Martin Luther King Jr.: A Legacy of Nonviolent Activism and Civil Rights Leadership

Published: 2024-01-04
Free Essay on Martin Luther King Jr.: A Legacy of Nonviolent Activism and Civil Rights Leadership
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Leadership analysis Racism Martin Luther King Civil rights
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1817 words
16 min read

Early Life and Education

Michael Luther King Jr. was born on 15th /01/1929 (Long). He grew up in a religious family given that his father, who had been raised by a pastor, was also a preacher. Due to this heritage, King became a preacher later in life and used Christian values to influence people's lives wherever he went. King started his education in Georgia, where he attended black-only schools. Because he was an apt learner, he finished high school at the tender age of 15 years and proceeded to the university where he pursued a bachelor's in art (Long). In 1948, King graduated from Morehouse College where he progressed to a theology course at Crozer, Pennsylvania (Long). At the school of theology, King was voted in as the president of the white senior class, and this was where his leadership skills were put into practice extensively. King, through a scholarship, enrolled at Boston University where he graduated with a doctorate. It is also at this university that he met with his wife, Coretta Scott (Long).

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It was until 1954 that King commenced his pastoral obligations at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, in Alabama (King Jr.). He became involved in Civil rights where he advocated for equal treatment for the black race throughout America. King, joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, where he emancipated the masses in opposing the injustices that were perpetrated against the black people throughout the USA. During his early years in the movement, King organized a various major demonstration across the nation preaching against segregation, slavery, and all historical injustices that the black race in America faced.

Non-Violent Protests against Racial Segregation

King devoted all his life to fighting racism in America, which manifested itself through racial segregation, which was intensified by the Jim Crow’s black code (Long). Segregation for the whites and blacks in the land was so rooted that public places bore signs reading blacks or whites only. It was an offense for a black man to take a front seat on a bus because it was a preserve for the whites. In 1955, King organized a nationwide demonstration famously known as the Montagne bus boycott which lasted for slightly over a year (King Jr). The demonstration prompted the Supreme Court to declare segregation unlawful, and from that time blacks could take any seat in buses without intimidation. Even though the blacks reaped the fruits of the demonstrations, King suffered a great deal because his property was destroyed, he was arrested on several occasions and assaulted at about that time of the boycott. However, this did not deter him from fighting for a course which he believed was divine, and his star as a Negro’s leader shone brighter.

In 1957 King became a leader for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The organization also championed the civil rights of the minority populations in America. King used his religious philosophy in his leadership in this organization, whereby he traveled all over the States preaching peace and non-violence. King led peaceful protests whenever there was an injustice, but this did not spare him from the wrath of those who were opposed to his doctrines.

In 1963, King was locked up in jail for allegations of breaking the law over demonstrations that he had organized after the commencement of the presidential campaign that year. King had marched down the streets with his fellow activists including Ralph wearing official attires where they were ushered into a waiting police wagon. In his famous rhetoric, “Letter from Birmingham Jail” which he wrote while he was in Birmingham Jail, demonstrates the activist’s yearning for equality amongst all races across all states of America (Leff 37-51). In this letter, he addresses what he calls segregation which is based on color, and is only meant to oppress the blacks (Leff 37-51). According to him, the only way to achieve justice for all was through integration among all communities.

King also addressed the issue of non-violence means of gaining freedom, whereby he beseeched his brothers from shedding blood in the name of fighting for equality. His arrest prompted the clergy to start a protesting campaign in which they perceived the king's arrest as an unwise thing for the government to do, given that it revealed the government's ill motives towards the people of color. The clergy protest rhetoric came to be known as the “White Clergy Urge” (Leff 37-51).

Violence was Martin Luther King's worst enemy as he preached against this vice whenever he had a chance. He always reminded the people of America to observe love and unity amongst people of all races and find more calm means of getting justice and not using violence, as this was evil and only brought more suffering to the people. In his legendary book, “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community”, King resonates that violence only bled more violence (King Jr.). In such circumstances, those who suffered the most were blacks who lacked the protection of the government.

King Always believed that, for human dignity to prevail, people needed to detach themselves from grudges and hate, because this could only make them more desperate in their quest for peace since hate blackens the heart. Morality was the blueprint from which King drew inspiration whenever he led peaceful demonstrations with thousands of people marching on the streets, caring not to hurt anyone in the process. However, the police officers were never hesitant to unleash anger on them as they battered and maimed many of them. King's commitment to non-violent demonstrations and upholding human dignity made him popular amongst even some whites, as he vehemently protected the lives of defenseless minorities, especially the Blacks.

Even though King received a lot of opposition from the government and others with vested interests, many people subscribed to his philosophy because he was witty and knew how to make people believe in his dreams of achieving a Great America that had no racial subjugations. In 1963, in Washington, King delivered his most influential speech, "I Have a Dream" where he addressed racial injustices that blacks have to endure because of their color (Vail 51-78). Throughout the speech, he employed vivid imagery, to paint the picture of how the blacks' lives have been disillusioned for years as they have to suffer historical injustices such as inequality in education, housing, and the labor market.

Even though it is the whites who committed most justice towards blacks, King never resent the white race, nor did he incite the blacks in his speeches against them. On the contrary, he compelled the 250,000 people gathered to listen to his speech and to dream along with him so that they could achieve a nation where both the blacks and the whites would hold hands for the prosperity of the great nation (Vail 51-78). In his speech, he reminded the people that even the Emancipation Proclamation, which was meant to give black Americans freedom had failed them (Vail 51-78). Many years later, the black people were still wallowing in poverty as the whites lived comfortable lives.

Between 1957 and 1968, King became such an icon that he transversed all the states in America preaching peace, equality, and anti-violence to millions of people who were always eager to listen to his words of wisdom and hope. Gandhi's principles made King prominent as he relentlessly reminded people of the virtue of neighborhood, love, and human dignity. King always stood out whenever there was an injustice and was never shy to let the world know the injustices that the defenseless communities faced because of their color and heritage. When he led the demonstration that led to him being sent to the Birmingham jail, he got the attention of the world for advocating for the rights of some of the Negroes to vote.

King’s Accomplishments and End Life

The Legendary King received five honoraries during his 15 years of active engagement in an eternal fight for the liberation of blacks and other minorities in the quest for achieving the American Dream. In 1963, Time magazine honored him by adorning him the title of “The Man of the Year”. King received a Nobel Peace Prize at the age of only 35 due to which he put the record of being the youngest person to ever receive a Nobel Prize. What astonished most people is that, when he became aware that he had been nominated for the prize, he promised the people that he would commit the money to the civil rights movements in fighting for Injustice as a way of defending vulnerable populations.

King was at the peak of his success when he was assassinated on 4th April 1968 in Tennessee, where he had planned a peaceful demonstration with garbage laborers in Memphis. Even though King died at a young age, he achieved so much during his short span that a normal person could not have achieved even by the age of 80. It is for this that King is regarded as the Civil Rights Movement legend of all times. He put a legacy that those who came after followed, and even if he was gone, those that he had mentored, and others who believed in his dreams never ceased matching for the course until things turned for the better, even though not absolutely.

Works Cited

Long, Michael G. Against Us, but for Us: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the State. Mercer University Press, 2002.,+Michael+G.+Against+us,+but+for+us:+Martin+Luther+King,+Jr.+and+the+state.+Mercer+University+Press,+2002.&ots=c8XFL0vgdZ&sig=7QYpBuYWOxs7Rw6EZlA7dvvTWjI&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Long%2C%20Michael%20G.%20Against%20us%2C%20but%20for%20us%3A%20Martin%20Luther%20King%2C%20Jr.%20and%20the%20state.%20Mercer%20University%20Press%2C%202002.&f=false

Vail, Mark. “The ‘Integrative’ Rhetoric of Martin Luther King Jr.'s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs, vol. 9, no. 1, 2006, pp. 51–78., doi:10.1353/rap.2006.0032.

Leff, Michael C., and Ebony A. Utley. “Instrumental and Constitutive Rhetoric in Martin Luther King Jr.'s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail.’” Rhetoric & Public Affairs, vol. 7, no. 1, 2004, pp. 37–51., doi:10.1353/rap.2004.0026.

King, Martin Luther. Where Do We Go from Here Chaos or Community? Beacon Press, 2010.

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