Martin Luther King Standing Up for Equal Rights

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Freedom, equality and justice are just words to us, that’s what they seem. But what about those who had to fight for all three to obtain freedom? Having equality justice and freedom meant they could have a future and not have to live in constant fear. Many African-Americans that were previously enslaved believed that when the Civil War was over, that they could be treated as equal citizens. The results of that belief wasn’t what they expected. Many people used racism and ignorance to spread racial division. In 1900s there had become new laws and customs that created a segregated society. This convicted African-Americans to second class citizenship. One man was very tired of seeing all of this racial injustice and wanted to do something about it. Martin Luther King Jr. he was fighting for himself as well as others. Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta on January 15, 1929, the son of a Baptist minister. He received a doctorate degree in theology and organised the major protest of the African American civil rights movement: the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. In “letter from Birmingham Jail” Martin Luther King Jr. uses strategic support by applying rhetorical questions and similes in his writing. This was to open church leaders’ eyes to see racial injustice and convince them to help act against it.

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Although slavery ended in the US in the 19th Century, institutionalised racism was continuing to dominate African-Americans for decades. By the 20th century black people were still forced to use separate facilities and schools from the whites. They suffered discrimination in employment and received abuse from whites. They were also unable to vote. For many years, civil rights activists were fighting these laws and social customs for equality for all Americans. Activists did win some major victories, the most notable was the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education. The victories didn’t help dismantle the racism that had overwhelmed the country. It was in this environment, seeing the possibility of America where white and black citizens were equal, that Martin Luther King Jr. joined for the fight of civil rights for black Americans.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister in training. He wanted to raise public awareness of racism so that racial discrimination and segregation would end in the United States. To reach the end goal of racial equality, Martin Luther King Jr. strategized smaller events and objectives that involved grassroots campaigns for in equal rights. He became involved in his first major civil rights campaign in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama where the buses were segregated. It was here that Rosa Parks, an African-American was arrested for civil disobedience, as she did not vacate her seat for a white man. Her arrest was a tactic to spark a grassroots movement, succeeded in catalysing the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Rosa Parks was chosen by King for the face of the campaign. In 1955, Claudette Colvin -15, had been arrested for the same crime. Rosa Parks helped present the image that Martin Luther King Jr. wanted to show the world. This was a crucial tactic in local campaigns. With Rosa in Jail because of Montgomery’s racism, Martin Luther King Jr. was able to involve the community to develop an effective response to the arrest. The African-American community of Montgomery came together to help King boycott the public transport in the city, demanding for equal rights on public transport. The boycott lasted for a year and ended as a United States District Court ruling in Browder v. Gayle which banned segregation on public buses in Montgomery. The Montgomery Bus boycott started a national struggle to end racial segregation, with which, King was leading. In 1957 Martin Luther King Jr. and African American civil rights activists led to the formation of Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The mission was to harness the moral authority and organising power of black churches to conduct non-violent protests for civil rights reform. The groups focus was to lead localising campaigns of desegregation lead by Martin Luther King Jr. The idea was to end segregation in just one ji89area at a time, such as on buses, diners, shops or schools. By seeking national attention to segregation King was the main organiser one of the “Big Six”, of the famous 1963 march in Washington. The march demanded economic justice for all Americans. This was the perfect opportunity for Martin Luther King Jr. to place their concerns before the capital, as expressed by King in his renowned “I Have a Dream” speech. The march led to the civil rights legislation and allowed King to advocate for other human rights that include poverty and workers’ rights.

Mahatma Gandhi was one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s major influences. He inspired people all over the world. The two men never did get a chance to meet as King was only 19 when Gandhi was assassinated. King learnt about him through his writing and a trip he took to India in 1959. King drew heavily on Gandhian principle of nonviolence in his own civil rights activism. King wrote “while the Montgomery boycott was going on, India’s Gandhi was the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change”. Nonviolence is agreeing that you won’t physically hurt the enemy. Satyagraha was referred as Gandhi’s form of nonviolence. This meant that “truth-force” or “love-force”. A person can seek truth and love while practicing Satyagraha whilst refusing with nonviolence, to participate in something he believes is wrong. This principle guided Gandhi’s activism against the British Empire, which helped India win independence in 1947

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