Martin Luther King Jr Biography
Some of Dr Martin Luther King Jr day struggles included fighting for the right of blacks to vote. He also sought desegregation and other basic civil rights. Eventually, most of King’s agitations were successfully enacted into the law of the United States. The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 1965 Voting Rights Act were also as a result of King’s determination.
During his lifetime, king used strategies of non-violent protest with great success as he always stood for peace.
In November 1961, a desegregation coalition was formed in Albany, Georgia, and this movement was known as the Albany movement. In December that year, King and the SCLC became involved in the movement. They helped to mobilize thousands of citizens for a non-violent attack on every aspect of segregation within the city. In no time, this movement attracted so much attention nationwide. When King visited at first, his plan was to stay for a day and return home after guiding them through. However, he was swept up in a mass arrest of peaceful demonstrators the following day. After the arrest, King was declined bail until the city made concessions.
The activist didn’t return until July 1962 and was given the option of forty-five days in jail or a fine of $178. Being the man that he was, Martin Luther King chose to go to jail. Three days into his sentence, King was discreetly arranged by Laurie Pritchett – a police chief – for his fine to be paid and released. After Albany, King pursued engagements for the SCLC where he could control the circumstances, instead of getting involved into pre-existing situations.
The largest gathering of protesters in Washington D.C.’s history (The March) took place on the 28th of August, 1963. This movement demanded an end to racial separation in public schools and meaningful civil rights legislation. It also sought a law prohibiting racial discrimination in employment and a $2 minimum wage for all workers. Furthermore, the people wanted self-government for Washington D.C and protection of civil rights workers from police brutality. Despite the tensions, “The March” was a resounding success. This was coupled with the fact that more than a quarter of a million people of diverse ethnicities attended the event. At this event, King delivered a seventeen minute speech that he titled “I Have a Dream”.
Till today, “I Have a Dream” is regarded as one of the best speeches in the history of American oratory. The March and Dr Martin Luther King speech helped to put civil rights at the top of the agenda of reformers in the United States. It also facilitated the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
On the 27th of April, 1967, King spoke during an anti-Vietnam war rally at the University of Minnesota. His speech was a reflection of King’s evolving political advocacy in his later years. In his speech, King stressed the need for fundamental changes in the political and economic life of the nation. Furthermore, he emphasized his opposition to the war and his desire to see the rearrangement of resources to correct racial and economic injustice. In public, he protected his language to avoid being related to communism by his adversaries. Howbeit, he sometimes spoke of his support for democratic socialism while in private.
King’s stance on Vietnam turned out to be an encouragement to Allard K. Lowenstein, William S Coffin, and Norman Thomas. Together with the support of anti-war Democrats, these men attempted to persuade King to run against President Lyndon B. Johnson in the US presidential election in 1968. King contemplated their proposal but in the end, he decided against the proposal. This was on the ground that he felt uneasy with politics. More so, he considered himself better suited for his morally unambiguous role as an activist.
The death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
On the 29th of March 1968, King went to Memphis in a bid to support the black sanitary public works employees. On his way to Memphis, King’s flight was delayed by a bomb threat against his plane. The workers had been on strike since the 12th of March requesting for higher wages and better treatment. Days later, King addressed a rally at the Mason Temple – the world headquarters of the Church of God in Christ. Speaking at this rally, he delivered a speech he titled “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”.
While he was at Memphis, King lodged at Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel. At exactly 6:01 p.m on the 4th of April, he was shot by James Earl Ray as he stood at the balcony of the motel’s second-floor. The bullet entered through his right cheek, smashed his jaw and then traveled down his spinal cord before lodging in his shoulder.
After an emergency chest surgery, he gave up the ghost at St. Joseph’s Hospital at exactly 7:05 p.m. After his death, his autopsy revealed that even though he was only 39 years old, he had the heart of a 60 year old. This was as a result of the thirteen years he had spent in the civil rights movement.
Martin Luther King’s assassination led to a nationwide wave of race riots in Washington D.C, Chicago, Baltimore and dozens of other cities. The city of Memphis settled the strike as soon as possible on terms favorable to the sanitation workers.
The President – Lyndon B. Johnson – declared the 7th of April a national day of mourning for the civil rights leader. Two months after his death, James Earl – who was on the loose from a previous prison escape – was captured. Without wasting any time, Earl was extradited to Tennessee and charged with King’s murder. On the 10th of March, 1969, he confessed to the assassination and was sentenced to a 99-year prison term. Earl spent the rest of his life attempting to withdraw his guilty plea and secure the trial he never had. James Earl died in prison at the age of 70.
The legacy of Martin Luther King
Part of Martin Luther King’s central legacy was to secure progress on civil rights in the U.S. Days after King’s assassination, the U.S Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 which is known as the Fair Housing Act. This bill prohibited discrimination in housing and housing related transactions on the basis of race, religion, or national origin. The conditions of this bill later expanded to include sex, family status and disability. This legislation was seen as a tribute to King’s struggle during his final years to fight residential discrimination in the U.S.
In the story of American liberalism and American progressivism, King is known to be a national icon. He was also known to have had great influence over Irish politician and activist, John Hume.