Racism/ Martin Luther King 2 term paper 16341

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Martin Luther King, Jr.

His name was Martin Luther King Jr. He was born on January 15 1929 to Reverend and Mrs. Martin Luther King Sr. in Atlanta Georgia. His parents first named him Michael, then after a while decided that they should call him Martin Luther King Jr. He had an older sister, Christine and a younger brother, Alfred Daniel who became known as simply A.D.

Martin Luther King Jr., lived a pretty happy, secure life as a child. His parents showed their children lots of love but they were also strict with them. They stressed pride, dignity and learning.

Martin Sr., as I shall call him for short, believed that he was as good as any other man, black or white. He refused to lower his head when they were around white people and he wouldn't flinch and move out of the way when he passed white people on the street. His wife was afraid that his pride and dignity would get him into trouble but he believed that 'one should never fear to do what was right'. Due to this, Martin Jr. grew up with the words; "You are as good as anybody else" fixed into his head.

His father would take him to downtown Atlanta where the large community of whites dwelled. The white people treated the black people harshly and cruelly. He wanted to show him the real world and its evil ways. In those days there was a lot of discrimination against black people in all aspects of life. For example black people had to shop at the back of shops but Martin Luther King Sr. refused to do so. If a clerk reminded him that black people must shop at the back of the shop, he would tell him that the seats were just as comfortable and that the shoes were the same, so he did not see any reason why he should shop at the back? If the clerks insisted then he and his son would go shop somewhere else. All this was an important lesson for Martin Jr. It really emphasized living and practicing the message that his father was relaying which was that he was as good as anybody else.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a smart boy. He started reading at a young age and he started school one year early. He was a very determined child, always one step ahead of the kids his age. He was what you would call a perfect kid. Maybe sometimes he was a little too perfect, passionate, sensitive and hard on himself. There was a time when his parents were out and his brother A.D. was horsing around and slid down the stair banister and knocked his grandmother out unconscious. Martin Luther King Jr. blamed himself for not watching his brother carefully and attempted to commit suicide by jumping out of an upstairs window.

He was a serious kid yet he was not abnormal. He had friends and he had a great sense of humor. He played sports but it was his interest in reading that put him three grades higher than the children his age. He got accepted into a college at the age of fifteen without even completing high school. To his father's dismay, he wanted to be a college professor or maybe even a lawyer but not a minister. He found college tough at first. He was not mature enough for all the topics that he was studying. He was very active, he joined the singing glee club, played on the football team and helped develop the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. (NAACP)

His second year at college was better. He was more focused and he had matured greatly so he began to understand the courses with ease and depth. His father and one of his professors continued to push him to be a minister but he was stubborn. He graduated with a BA degree in Sociology and then a BD degree in Theology. It was the summer of 1947 that he decided to become a minister after working on a tobacco farm but he wanted to finish his education as well. He was licensed to preach and became the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. King felt that as a minister he couldn't but be involved in the human rights fight.

In 1953 King married a woman called Coretta Scott whom he later has four children with. He was awarded his doctorate in systematic theology. Later in 1957 Dr. King was on the cover on Time Magazine for all his work on the civil rights and the freedom and equality of blacks. He wrote several books, including Stride Toward Freedom, The Montgomery Story, Strength of Love, Why We Can't Wait? and Where Do We Go from Here?

All through his life he had helped the different movements leading towards human civil rights, freedom and equality for the black people. From the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, St. Augustine Campaign, Mississippi Freedom Summer, Selma Campaign, Student sit-ins and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to the March on Washington and the Freedom Riders, he showed courage compassion, pride and a deep passionate belief which he expressed in words but more so in his actions. With the March on Washington he had created a new form of protesting and that is the mass demonstration. In that Washington March (the largest Civil Rights demonstration in history) he was introduced as the moral leader of the nation. It was there that he gave his famous speech "I have a dream." In all these different movements, his actions and in his speeches he preached about the philosophy of nonviolence and that love stood as the regulating ideal. By this we could see how much he was affected by Gandhi's life and his nonviolent direct action techniques and also with Jesus Christ and the gospel of love. He learnt that love was a potent instrument for social and collective transformation. He preached the gospel of nonviolent action, not only against racial injustice but also against all injustice. In spite of all the violence, harsh attacks and threats, King persevered in his nonviolent philosophy. After one of the horrendous murders of four young black girls he said, "God still has a way of wringing good out of evil." Another thing he said was, " We will wear them down by our capacity to suffer." He worked very hard at convincing the many persecuted and angry black people of responding to the violence with love, pride and quiet dignity. This, many times, infuriated the extreme white racists. This proved his point that you can achieve results with nonviolent procedures.

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to King in December 1964. In his humble acceptance speech, he gave credit to the millions he represented and who fought without being acknowledged. He said, " Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political racial questions of our time- the need for man to overcome oppression without resorting to violence." After the Nobel Prize, he was even more committed to working on the nonviolence tactics.

Dr. King always recognized the power of words. He was a very powerful and profound speaker. He had great impact on people whose lives were touched by his. If we try to see the impact of King's actions on American Society, we find that he had shattered the system of southern segregation in schools, universities and public places. "He fashioned a mass black electorate which eliminated overt racism. He accumulated political power for blacks beyond anything they ever had in the history of the United States of America." His work led to the Civil Rights Act 1964, Voting Rights Act 1965 and provided the important steps towards the road to freedom. He inspired young blacks and made them fight for their right to freedom. People took his dream to be their dream and different people from all walks of life saw this dreamer (King) as the conscience of the whole nation. He was a very good man, humble and hardworking with a formidably strong conscience who kept examining himself to see if he had become corrupted, as his wife, Coretta said. Thus he inspired people by giving them a good example and he armed them with dignity and self respect. King once said, "Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded." The road was hard and long but was worth it. People needed to fight for their freedom. Millions of black Americans were freed from spiritual imprisonment, from fear and apathy and took to the streets to show their freedom. This freedom movement has become a major political force in the United States. In the citation of the posthumous award of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Dr. King, July 4, 1977, the president said: "Martin Luther King, Jr. was the conscience of his generation. A Southerner, a black man, he gazed upon the great wall of segregation and saw that the power of love could bring it down. From the pain and exhaustion of his fight to free all people from the bondage of separation and injustice, he wrung his eloquent statement of his dream of what America could be His life informed us, his dreams sustain us yet."

Dr. King knew he was going to be assassinated; yet he accepted death and was not afraid of it. He was often threatened and lived with a shadow of danger. He spoke of his death without fear or self-pity and said, "A man who won't die for something is not fit to live." King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 by a sniper in Memphis. Here are some of his words that were played on a tape during his memorial service. "If any of you are around when I have to meet my day I don't want a long speech, I'd like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life for others. I'd like somebody to say that day, that M.L.K. Jr., tried to love somebody. I want you to say that day that I tried to be like and to walk with them. I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. Then my living will not be in vain."

Of all the tributes paid to Dr. King, time has written the most enduring acclamation. Time has proved that violence lost its power to convince, in a world where violence is very common." Rarely has one individual espousing so difficult a philosophy, served as the catalyst for so many significant and permanent social changes. King did not wait for evolution to occur naturally. He perpetrated it. He incited evolution. His greatness lay in the ability to analyze and attack the roots of the problem, not the symptoms." Those were words written by Flip Schulke. Martin Luther King, Jr. made people change their social attitudes customs and beliefs, rather than just change the laws or habits. He made people believe in themselves and in being morally superior to confront their problems and opponents.

I will leave you with some of his words in his last speech in Memphis April 3, 1968: "Well, I do not know what will happen now. We have some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now. Because I have been to the mountaintop. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I am not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will."


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