Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) was one of the most prominent civil right activists witnessed by the United States of America. Besides this, he was also in fact a Baptist minister. This noble laureate relentlessly worked for equality and the abolition of discrimination towards the people of colour in the USA, among other things, and his famous speech ‘I have a dream’ is widely celebrated and acclaimed throughout the world even today.
Unfortunately, he was assassinated in the year of 1968, which put an abrupt end to his eventful life and led to the creation of a void in the fight for equality in the American history which nobody else could possibly fill.
Early life and education
Born to Martin Luther King Senior and Alberta Williams King on the 15th of January, 1929, King was the middle child in his family. King was born and brought up in Atlanta, Georgia and his family was predominantly a rural one. They followed Protestantism, and Martin Luther King Sr. was a prominent Baptist minister, and King duly followed his father’s footsteps.
As a child, he grew up with a younger brother and an elder sister under a balanced parenthood made complete by the exact amount of lenience and discipline. Most of his childhood events like getting baptised or entering school had little or no effect on King.
On the other hand, he was deeply moved by the event of his grandmother’s sudden death. He was so disturbed by the death that he even tried to take his own life at that young an age by jumping from a higher storey of a building, and it was of course an unsuccessful attempt.
He skipped a couple of years in school, and started going to college in Morehouse College, Atlanta from the year of 1944, when he was about 15 years old. He was a popular student but was not very successful academically or otherwise. This might have been caused by a deep-rooted lack of motivation or guidance.
However, he soon started to display a religious inclination, as he started being trained to be a minister during the junior year and confirmed this choice by informing his parents about the same in the senior year. He soon received a degree in sociology from the same college and improved greatly in his studies.
King soon earned a fellowship for further studies and eventually came under spiritual influences as well as became motivated to work towards social causes. Surprisingly, King earned a doctorate at the age of just 25.
Life and work
The movement for achieving equal rights for the blacks in the USA was kickstarted by two important incidents- the protest done by Rosa Parks by not giving up her seat in a bus and therefore violating the Montgomery City code. The other incident was similar but was a bus boycott in the same area instead. Rosa Parks and King soon got to know each other, which again initiated a spark.
Following this, he was elected to be one of the front faces of the boycott as his credibility was exceptional and so was his knowledge and upbringing. This was the beginning of his lifelong work for social causes, and towards ensuring civil liberties. One of the major things that came to his support and contributed to further enhance his credibility was his talents as a great orator.
His speeches at various campaigns motivated plenty of people and ignited a newly fuelled interest in the cause he was standing for. The bus boycott proved to be tedious, as the blacks stopped using public transport and the like for over an entire year (382 days, to be precise), but it eventually proved to be an immense success, as the district of Montgomery did finally revoke the oppressive laws which aimed at segregating people on the basis of the colour of their skin (or race). In the year of 1957, King, along with 60 other civil rights activists, came together to join hands and form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
The SCLC demanded the registration of all black voters in the southern states and to grant them proper political rights. The leaders of the organisation went around the entire country to spread their message and further awareness about their fight through speeches, pamphlets, etc.
This was later followed by the sit-in movement in the 1960s, organised by students. These movements effectively erased segregation in more than 20 southern cities through their resilience and determination, and King was a prominent influence for all such movements during those years.
I have a dream
This is one of the most famous and powerful speeches in the American history, and was delivered by King in the year of 1963, in a demonstration which took place at Birmingham. This was a result of a mass arrest which aimed at suppressing protests of the blacks for their rights.
His speech spoke to the mass about how his dream is to live in an America which treats all its citizens equally, and there is no social, political, or economic discrimination among people irrespective of their age, race, or sex. He said that he dreamt to live in a country where only one’s character can be the true judge to their worth.
This led to the passing of the Civil Rights Act (1964) through which the federal government enforced desegregation of the citizens. This also eventually earned King a Nobel Prize in peace, in 1964.
On the 4th of April, 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated by James Earl Ray (who later owned up about the murder) as he was standing on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel.
He was killed due to a sniper bullet. King’s murder was a very negatively provocative event and it caused many heated protests and riots all over the country.
Although he led an extremely controversial life, throughout his college days as well as the later year, King did not fail to leave his mark upon the minds of millions of people- of both the oppressed and the oppressor.
His life had a very important impact on how people started dealing with problems related to races and racial configurations and completely revolutionised the fight for an entire community by giving them the voice they not just needed, but also rightly deserved.