Martin Luther King Jr.
Where would racism in America stand without the man who had a dream? The man who dreamt that political and social justice were to be given to all African American people in America. The man who dreamt that people would be judged off of their character, rather than the color of their skin. The man who fought for his and his family’s equality through peaceful protest, instead of riots and war. Martin Luther King Jr. paved the way for equality and justice throughout America and was determined to fight for a better life for not only African Americans, but for the world. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most important influencers of African American history’s end to racial inequality and social injustice, due to his contributions in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, nonviolent protests and marches, and his famous I Have a Dream speech.
The law that defined “separate but equal” forced the African American community to constantly face unequal treatment in all aspects of their daily lives, for example, like riding the bus. Although, African American’s were given the ‘privilege’ of riding the same bus as the white people, they had designated seating areas for the colored at the back of the bus, and the whites at the front. However, the bus boycott did not begin until one day Rosa Parks was sitting in her designated area at the back of the bus, but was asked by the driver to give her seat to a white man that was standing due to the large amount of people on the bus that day. Rosa Parks denied the man the seat that was rightfully hers, and was then wrongfully arrested for her refusal to do so. Rosa Parks arrest initiated a spark in the civil rights activist’s community, “When Mrs. Rosa Parks, the quiet seamstress whose arrest precipitated the nonviolent protest in Montgomery, was asked why she had refused to move to the rear of the bus, she said: ‘It was a matter of dignity; I could not have faced myself and my people if I had moved’” (King, Martin Luther, 10) African Americans in Montgomery were angered and consequently decided that something needed to be done. One of King’s first contributions as a nonviolent activist to end racial inequality in America was his contribution in the Montgomery bus boycott, in response to Mrs. Parks. He was elected as the leader of this boycott due to him being known for his nonviolent approaches for his advocating for African American’s rights as well his strong character. The boycott was a city-wide act that lasted for 382 days, and eventually ended as a success for the African American community of Montgomery, due to this nonviolent boycott lasting for over a year. The city of Montgomery was faced with major financial losses as well as many lower court rulings failures, which subsequently lead to the removal of the law that once enforced segregation on public transportation (Biography.com Editors).
Martin Luther King Jr. was an inspiration for many African Americans in his community, and used his power to encourage people to fight for their deserved rights through peaceful protests. The bus boycott ran by King is seen in African history as a milestone due to the effect it had on both communities, black and white. The boycott for many African Americans was used as an encouraging factor, it showed them that their voice could be heard and truth behind how strength is in numbers. The bus boycott served as an inspiration for African Americans to stand up to the segregation and racism that they were constantly surrounded by. Due to the bus boycott uplifting the law that enforced segregation on public transportation, African American students became determined to end segregation in all public places. The inspired students began their nonviolent protest by simply going to lunch at their city’s local restaurants and purposefully sitting at tables that were designated for white people only. When these “sit-in” students would be told to move or leave the restaurant, the “sit-ins” would remain calm and continue to sit at the table that their skin color banned them from. When the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (a large group of civil rights activists and ministers, including Martin Luther King Jr., that encouraged nonviolence protests to advance the civil rights reform) heard about these radical “sit-in” students they took action and held a conference at their university where King spoke to all the “sit-in” activists. Martin Luther King Jr. conducted this conference to further encourage the students to continue their nonviolent protest, even when the restaurant employees attempt to get physical with them. King’s method of fighting for equality without the use of violence once again showed how powerful peaceful protests can be when demonstrated in large numbers, “By August of 1960, the sit-ins had been successful in ending segregation at lunch counters in 27 southern cities” (Biography.com Editors). Due to King and other civil rights activists, racism and social injustices were slowly diminishing throughout the south and become a pressing issue in all of America.
Another one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s major accomplishments is what most of America would associate King with, which is his influential I Have a Dream speech. The speech was held at the Lincoln Memorial after one of the largest marches, where over 250,000 people heard the cries of King as he spoke on the behalf of African Americans who faced the injustices of racism. The speech mocked his protest methods in the way that it was intended to be peaceful but also assertive. King opened the eyes of Americans all over the country by expressing his dreams for America’s future, where everyone is seen as equals regardless of the color of their skin. Martin Luther King Jr. is seen as one of the greatest influencers to help put an end to racism in America, “That was God preaching the Gospel to America through King. It helped to change the mind-set of America” (Kirk, John, and John A. Kirk. 97). His speech spoke on behalf of African Americans in the United States and the injustices that they were forced to face every day, and because his speech was so influential King’s words were described as God-like due to how many people they touched. He explained to white Americans that African Americans still felt as if they weren’t free, as if they were still slaves. He describes the lives of African Americans as crippled slaves to highlight the fact that just because they were not physically owned by an individual, but were still slaves in society, “One hundred years later the 1ife of the Negro is still badly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later the Negro lives on a lonely land of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity” (King, Martin Luther). This line touched the hearts of many people, for they did not completely comprehend the toll that segregation had on a man, for they were unable to understand what it was like to be on the short hand of the stick of segregation, the hand that made a man feel unfree.
The March on Washington was a huge milestone for the United States, due to its two large compensations in America’s fight to end segregation and racism completely. One of the accomplishments that stemmed from The March and Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech was the creation of the 24th Amendment to the Constitution. This Amendment was made to eliminate the poll tax, which was previously created to prevent African Americans from voting in elections, due to its enforcement to pay a fee to vote each year, which was never a great deal of money but was used to deter African Americans from spending the little money that they had, on voting. Not only did this Amendment give a greater opportunity for African Americans to vote, but the Amendment also encouraged them in many ways. In the obvious way, it encouraged them to vote, but it also encouraged African Americans to stand up for themselves and fight for their equality because they now knew that their voices were being to be heard and were loud enough for the government to make a change to the constitution and do something radical. In addition, another accomplishment that followed the large march and King’s speech was the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act was arguably one of the most important movements that was enacted to end racism in America, due to it being created to end segregation in all public spaces. The act served as a huge win for America because of its acknowledgement for the equality that African Americans deserved from their country and community. This act not only benefited African Americans but the act banned employment discrimination. Therefore, the act profited African Americans, all races, and women. The act also served as an accomplishment in America due to its enforcement of banning racial segregation in schools, therefore giving African Americans the chance to get a better education and not be discriminated based off of their skin color. In addition to the 24th amendment, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also contributed to the equality of voting in America, for it required an equal approach to voter registration requirements, therefore enforcing equality for all.
Martin Luther King Jr. speech and the March on Washington, made Americans aware of the setbacks that segregation created as well as the impact that racism in the United States had on African Americans. King produced a revolution in Americans to fight for their rights to be judged off of their quality of character, rather than the fact if their skin is black or white. Martin Luther King Jr. made Americans acknowledge the idea that each person is equal to the other, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or sex. He was a social advocate for all, preaching for the civil rights of every American. King wished for equality for all, “Now is the time to make justice a reality of all of God’s children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment” (King, Martin Luther). Martin Luther King Jr. showed America that if the nation were to continue in the way that they were with constant segregation and discrimination, the United States economy would eventually collapse. King was passionate for the equality of all humans, not just black and white and had high hopes for the creation of a nation that valued each and every human life regardless of their skin color, their sex, or where they were born. All is equal.
Martin Luther King Jr. is a major contributor to the demolishing of segregation in America due to his constant protests and advocating for equality for blacks and whites, women and men, and all ethnicities. King’s contribution to a better America that made people feel equal, as well as free to voice their opinion on the matter, is why Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Noble Piece Prize. King not only made people feel like they were important and had the right to be heard, but also showed Americans that they could have the ability to earn these rights of equality without the enforcement of violence. King proved to Americans that the power in all of us is not through our inner self, but through the strength that we receive through the battle in numbers. This is why Martin Luther King Jr. has a holiday dedicated to him, so that Americans remember what he did for America and why he and so many others fought for the equality of every American.
King helped light the fire inside many African Americans by showing them what the light at the end of the tunnel could be for the United States and Americans, which was the abolishment of racism and social injustice. Martin Luther King Jr. ignited the Montgomery bus boycott through the encouragement of peaceful protest and nonviolence, as well as the mark he left on the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington, where he delivered one of America’s most inspiration and influential speeches, I Have a Dream. Martin Luther King Jr. gave African Americans equality and social justice.
Biography.com Editors. “Martin Luther King Jr.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 18 Jan. 2018, www.biography.com/people/martin-luther-king-jr-9365086.
King, Martin Luther. “Civil Rights Era.” Teaching American History, teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/i-have-a-dream-speech/.
King, Martin Luther. The Essential Martin Luther King, Jr. Edited by Clayborne Carson, Beacon Press, 2013.
Kirk, John, and John A. Kirk. Martin Luther King Jr, Routledge, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/uaz/detail.action?docID=1710572.
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