Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Martin Luther King, Jr. - "I Have A Dream!"

Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born at Atlanta, Georgia on the 15 January 1929. Son to a Baptist minister, Martin Senior and a schoolteacher, Alberta Williams King.

In 1943, at the age of 14, King was forced to give up his bus seat for a white passenger on his ride home. This humiliating event in his life spurred him to confront the injustice of inequality.

In 1948, at the age of 15, King attended Morehouse College. Here he discovered the writings of Henry Thoreau and he became fascinated by his ideas of non-violent resistance. He was then inspired by father and college president, Benjamin Mays, a Baptist minister and advocate of racial equality. King was later ordained as a minister.

After he graduated college, King continued training at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania and received his doctorate from Boston University School of Theology in 1995. King married Coretta Scott, a student at Boston on the 18 June 1953. Over the 10 years the couple had four children.

In December 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery for refusing to move from her seat on a bus so a white man could sit. King lead an African-American bus boycott that lasted 381 days. In 1956, the US Supreme Court ruled that Montgomery's bus policy was unconstitutional. 

Working with Bayard Rustin, a civil rights campaigner, King established the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). King and the SCLC hoped to gain success in Montgomery by expanding the bus boycotts across the South. However, in some places, the African-American population was too small to make it effective. In other places, they quickly gave in on the demands of the boycott. Although elsewhere they simply allowed their bus services to go bankrupt, rather than give in to the boycotts.

In 1959, King traveled to India to learn more about Gandhi's non-violent protest movement. On his five week tour of India he met Gandhi's family and Prime Minister Nehru. He returned home determined to use non-violence in his protests. However, his non-violent protest in Albany, Georgia in 1961-1962 was unsuccessful as the police didn't confront the protesters and defused the situation by starving the cause of publicity.

In 1963, King staged a massive program of boycotting, marches and sit-ins at Birmingham, Alabama. As a result King was arrested on the 12 April. Although, at Albany, the authorities used violence to break-up protesters, using high-powered hoses and dogs. The coverage of the events won public support for King's case.

King was later released and was invited to the White House, where President Kennedy showed his support for the cause.

King made his iconic 'I Have A Dream' speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on the 28 August 1963. There was a crowd of about 200,000 people at Lincoln Memorial and millions watching at home, as King shared his vision of the day of freedom and equality for all.

'I have a dream!'
On the 15 September 1963 a Supremacists bombed a Birmingham church and killed four girls. The was a huge public outcry at the news. At their funerals King addressed about 8,000 mourners. In the summer of 1964, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, ending segregation in public. 

At 35, King received the Noble Peace Prize in 1964. Making him the youngest person to be awarded it.

In 1965, King started to campaign for voting rights in Selma, Alabama. After the state troops clashed with protesters at Edmund Pettus Bridge, activists around the country took part in a five day march from Selma to Montgomery. King led the group of 2,000 on the march. As they marched the grouped increased to 30,000. That August, the Voting Rights Act was passed, which removed the barriers for African-Americans to vote.

In 1966, King and his family moved to Chicago's west side black ghetto. He was trying to help the urban poor in North America. He found it hard to get the support behind his cause. Also the local authorities agreed to promote fair housing and then they went back on the promise. After this his message of using non-violence was losing support. Within many civil rights movements there was a growing support for violence. Which saw the rise of the Black Panther group. 

After his defeat in Chicago, King continued to involve himself in US economic, social and foreign affairs. On the 4 August 1967, he made a speech in New York at a march against the Vietnam War. He spoke against  the US's neglect of the poor and the waste of money on war.

In 1968, King started the Poor People's Campaign working to end economic inequality.

While in Memphis for a march, King was shot on his motel balcony by a white supremacist, James Ray, on the 4 August 1968. On hearing the news of his death, riots broke out across the country. President Johnson called for a national day of mourning.

Even though Martin Luther King, Jr. never saw his dream of peace and social equality in America, he is remembered for his beliefs, principles for non-violence, and views for freedom and equality. Today he is the only African-American to have a national holiday.  

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