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MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. biography

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

biography

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.
     The crusade that started against inequality during Lincoln’s time reached a feverish pitch under the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr., a black American clergyman and a Noble Prize winner in the 19 fifty’s.
With conviction King carried the baton of non violence and fought against racism that had infected thevery sinews of social thought in the United States of America. With the magic of rhetoric that is born out of pure conviction King mesmerized audiences across the nation and steadily began to carve a niche in the hearts of the whites who becoming aware of their prejudice decided to do away with it. In the long history of the civil rights movement in America the contribution of Martin Luther King reigns supreme.
    MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. was the eldest son of Martin Luther King Sr. a Baptist minister and his wife Alberta King. King‘s father was a pastor of a large Atlanta church, Ebenezer Baptist. This church had been founded by King's maternal grandfather.
King was born in Atlanta. Georgia in 1929. Racism was the accepted order of the day when King started to attend school. He attended a segregated school as was the form. He excelled there. He graduated from Morehouse College at the age of 15 with a bachelor's degree in sociology. Here he sharpened his rhetoric skills and became a much acclaimed debator. He then attended the Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania and graduated from there in 1951. Here too he received admiration for his public speaking abilities. He was by far the most effective speaker the college had seen in many years. From Boston University he received a doctoral degree in systematic theology in 1955.
King’s ecclesiastical background nurtured in him a firm faith that all men are created equal and evoked in him a desire to see that justice is done. A highly moral soul he never steered from the path of non violence even a fraction to achieve his aim. In God's Kingdom justice must be done, he believed but -only peacefully. King was influenced by protest leaders like Mahatma Gandhi who believed that the only true way to freedom was through non-violence. Benjamin E. Mays, president of Morehouse and a leader in the national community of racially liberal clergymen, was specially important in shaping King's theological development. The strength of mind that comes with practice of self control is what made King successful in paving a path ridden with prejudice and racial contempt.
In 1953 King married Coretta Scott, a music student and a native of Alabama. In 1954 King accepted his first pastorate at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery. Alabama. The church had a welt-educated congregation and had been recently led by a minister who had protested against segregation.
King's appointment at Montgomery rushed him into the thick of action. The Montgomery blacks had been seething against mistreatment of blacks in the community buses. A black was, according to segregation laws supposed to ride only in the back of the bus and in case of a crowded bus he was to empty his seat to a white passenger. The blacks under the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) decided to challenge these unjust laws. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a leading member of the NAACP, was ordered by a bus driver to give up her seat. When she refused she was arrested and taken to jail. Local leaders of the NAACP recognized the potency of the situation and saw it as a good opportunity to rake up the issue so it receives some attention. The time, Nixon believed was ripe for protest. King a relative new comer in the Montgomery black community was chosen to lead the protest. He had no enemies and his powerful public speaking was an asset not to be ignored. It gave a roaring impetus to the civil right movement that was soon to take on national dimension.
King was chosen as the president of the Montgomery Improvement association (MIA). Under his leadership the MIA directed the bus boycott. The boycott tasted for more than a year. King's memoir of the bus boycott, Stride towards Freedom, provided a thoughtful account of the intrinsic dreams and desires that the blacks endeavored to fulfill. It demonstrated a new spirit of protest among Southern blacks. King's serious demeanor and consistent appeal to Christian brotherhood and American idealism made a positive impression on the whites outside the South. King, along with ail that he was associated with began to get international attention. Incidents of violence against black protesters, inctuding bombing of King’s home focused media attention on Montgomery.
           In 1956 an attorney for the MIA filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking an injunction against Montgomery's segregated seating practices. The federal court ruled in favour of the MIA, ordering the city‘s buses to be desegregated. The city government appealed the ruling to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the lower court. King was a national figure in the civil rights movement.
King's life from then on was targeted at ending these awful practices that under the guise of law had so invaded the social strata of society. His fight was against injustice and his dedication to the cause was total. In 1957 King helped f0und the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), an organization of black churches and ministers that aimed to challenge racial segregation. King was appointed the president of the SCLC. He organized fund raising during his preaching tours in the Northern Churches.
King along with the SCLC tried to legally fight the racist’s injustice in court. Their method of protest was always nonviolent. But their demonstrations so infuriated the whites that they reacted violently. This further promoted their cause and eventually forced the federal government to confront issues of injustice and racism in the South.
King's success was mainly due to the support he received from the North. Jewish activist and black civil right activists closely worked with King planning new strategies to destroy segregation. Many from the Jewish communities aided the movement by providing monetary aid. Bayard Rustin, a black civil rights and peace activist and Stanley Levison, a Jewish activist and former member of the American Communist Party were prime in the help they rendered to King.
In 1961 in Albany, Georgia, the SCLC joined local demonstrations against segregated restaurants, hotels, transit and housing. The demonstrations were large and annoyed the white officials who rounded up hundreds of demonstrators in jail and the blacks ran out of money to bail out their people. The effort ended in a fiasco.
In Alabama the strategy of the SCLC to create a lot of dissent and disorder in the state due to its intensive demonstrations was met with succession May 1963 teenagers and children also joined the demonstrations on the streets of Birmingham. The sheer number of protesters angered the police commissioner, Eugene “Bull” Connor. Police officers with attack dogs and firefighters with high pressure water hoses were sent against the marches. This act of brutish violence on the part of the Birmingham police caught the eye of the media who gave unsavory publicity to the police. The national reaction to the violence was acute and helped to build support for the black civil right movement. During the demonstration King was arrested and he wrote the famous “Letter from the Birmingham City Jail. "In this he argued that individuals had a moral right to disobey unjust laws. King was acclaimed as the new national moral leader and his personality encouraged many Americans to support the national legislation against segregation.
On August 28, 1963, king delivered the keynote address to an audience of more than 200,000 civil right supporters. His "i Have a Dream" speech expressed the hopes of the civil rights movement in oratory as moving as any in American history; have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal'.... 1 have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the Content of their character. "This speech in the backdrop of the demonstrations at Birmingham created the political momentum that resulted in the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. This act prohibited segregation in public accommodations, as well as discrimination in education and employment. King's peaceful protests and his exemplary moral stance on all the civil rights issues won him the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964.
King next goal was to procure for the blacks voting rights in the state. In 1965 the SCLC joined a voting-rights protest march that was planned to go from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital of Montgomery, more than 80 kms away. The police met the marchers aggressively and in the face of all media attention they tear-gassed the protesters. It resulted in violence and bloodshed. The day was known as Bloody Sunday. It resulted in the federal court’s ruling to ban police interference and the march was once again resumed two weeks later. At Montgomery King addressed a rally of 20, 000 people in front of the capitol building. The Voting Rights Act was signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965. The act suspended the use of tests and other voter qualification tests that often have been used to prevent blacks from registering to vote.
King soon turned his attention to the economic difficulties faced by the Black community in the North. In 1967 he began planning a Poor People’s Campaign to pressure the national lawmakers to address the issue of economic justice.
King's tireless dedication to the black cause that brought him fame and renown also brought him to door's death. In Memphis white supporting the rights of the black garbage workers he was shot by a sniper on 4 August 1968. James Earl Ray an escaped convict pleaded guilty to the murder of King and was sentenced to 99 years of prison.

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