Martin Luther King Jr. was a revolutionary man. He spoke of non-violent ways to create a fair and equal society. He preached that all men are the same and created equal no matter the color of your skin. He was a great public speaker and reached many people in his speeches. Martin King even got to speak to thousands of people at the footsteps of the Lincoln Memorial where he spoke these words. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
The first four words of this quote are the most repeated words and in my opinion the most meaningful as well. Whenever someone is asked about Martin Luther King Jr. , the first thing that comes to mind is his four famous words “I have a dream”.
He truly believed and preached that all men are created equal and this was what united people to him, but his life was cut short by James Earl Ray who assassinated King. King was killed at the age of 39 on April 4, 1968. He only got to preach to the people of America for a very short period of time. Although he was murdered at a young age he still accomplished so much in his life.
This thought can make one wonder what would happened if Martin Luther King Jr. were still alive today. Martin Luther King Jr. was actually born Michael King Jr. and was the middle child of Michael King Sr. and Alberta Williams King. King was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta Georgia. Martin’s Grandfather A. D. Williams was a rural minister and then moved to Atlanta Georgia. While in Atlanta A. D. took over a small and struggling Ebenezer Baptist Church with only around 13 members and turned it into a forceful congregation. Upon the death of A. D. in 1931 Michael King Sr.
became a pastor and also a very successful minister and adopted the name Martin in honor of the German protestant religious leader Martin Luther. Michael King Jr. changed his name to Martin shortly after his father. When Martin was only 12 years old his grandmother with whom he had a special bond died from a heart attack. This event was very traumatic for young King and distraught of the news he allegedly attempted suicide by leaping out of a second story window. After this event though Kings life began to turn around for the better. Martin skipped both the ninth and eleventh grade and entered Morehouse College located in Atlanta at age 15.
He was very smart so that caused him to be very lazy and float through his first two years in college. In 1948 King earned a sociology degree. He then attended the Liberal Crozier Theological Seminary in Chester Pennsylvania. Although he was lazy at Morehouse King strived in his academics here in Chester. He strived in all his studies and was valedictorian of his class in 1951 and was also elected student body president. During his last year at Seminary King was strongly influenced by Reinhold Niebuhr who was a classmate of Kings Father at Morehouse College.
Niebuhr was probably the single most influence in Martins intellectual and spiritual development. After Martin was accepted in to many different colleges including Yale, he chose to enroll at Boston University. During the work on his Doctorate Martin met his future wife Coretta Scott. Coretta was an aspiring singer and musician who King later married in June of 1953 and had four children with. In 1954 King became a pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery Alabama. King then completed his Ph. D. and got his degree in 1955. King had done all this by the age of 25.
The night that Rosa Parks was arrested in 1955 E. D. Nixon who was head of the local NAACP chapter met with Martin King and other civil rights leaders planned a city wide bus boycott. Martin would be nominated head of this boycott and it would be 328 days of walking to work, harassment, violence, and intimidation for the Montgomery African American Community. During this boycott both Nixon and Kings Homes were bombed. It was very hard for King to continue the boycott but he did and eventually the city of Montgomery lifted the law that mandated segregated public transportation.
Flush with victory, African Civil Rights leaders recognized a need for a national organization to coordinate their efforts. In January of 1957 Martin and many other ministers and Civil Rights Activist founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. They would help conduct non-violent protesting to promote civil rights and equality among all. King met with religious civil rights leaders and lectured all over the country on race related issues. By around 1960 Martin Luther King Jr. was going national. He then returned to Atlanta to become a co-pastor to his father at the original Baptist Church.
In October at 1960 King and 36 other students were arrested after not leaving a counter after being denied lunch. This was only one of many arrest of King. Shortly after this arrest King was actually imprisoned for a traffic conviction. After this harsh treatment President Kennedy reached out to his family and eventually got Martin out of prison and all his charges dropped. After this Martin and his supporters began to make plans for a massive demonstration on the nations capital composed of multiple organizations all asking for the same thing, peaceful change.
On august 28, 1963 the historic march drew more than 200,000 at the feet of the Lincoln Memorial. It was here that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. This speech emphasized Kings Belief that all men were created equal and are all brothers. The rising tide of civil rights produced a strong effect on the public’s opinion. Many people in cities that were not even experiencing racial tensions began to question the nations Jim Crow laws and the near century second class treatment of African American citizens.
All this resulted in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 authorizing the federal government to enforce desegregation of public accommodations and also outlawing discrimination in publicly owned facilities. This led to Martin winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. King is the youngest man ever to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Although King was doing all these great things he still was not perfect. Kings patient and non-violent approach and appeal to the white middle class citizens alienated many black militants who considered his methods to weak and too late.
King was also a heavy smoker and was also unfaithful to his wife. By around 1968 the years of demonstrations and confrontation were beginning to wear on Martins body and mind. He had grown tired of going to jail, marches, and living under the constant threat of death. King was pretty much saying no more. It was in spring of 1968 when a labor strike by Memphis Sanitation workers caused King to go on 1 last crusade. On April 3rd he told supporters “I have seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you.
But I want you to know tonight that we, as people, will get to the Promised Land”. Little did King know, that the next day, he was going to be murdered. On the April 4th 1968 while King was at his room at the Loraine Motel standing on the balcony he was struck by a snipers bullet. The shooter, a former convict, was eventually apprehended after a two month international man hunt. This killing sparked riots in more than 100 cities across the country. In 1969 James Ray pleaded guilty to assassinating King and was sentenced to 99 years in prison but died in prison on April 23rd, 1998.
Martin Luther King Jr. ’s life had a humongous impact on race relations in the United States. Years after his death he is the most widely known African American Leader in his era. His life and work have been honored with a National Holiday, Schools and public buildings named after him, street names, and also a memorial on Independence Mall in Washington D. C. There is no doubt the Martin Luther King Jr. was a great man who changed this country for the better in his time and for the rest of the Country’s history.
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