MLK as a Civil Rights Hero

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King’s tactics for creating peaceful protests and effective methods for gathering others together highlighted his superb leadership abilities. As stated by the Introduction article of the King Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, “One of the key aspects of King’s leadership was his ability to establish support from many types of organizations, including labor unions, peace organizations, southern reform organizations, and religious groups.” On August 28, 1963, King organized a peaceful protest of 250,000 people in Washington DC at the Lincoln Memorial, where he made his most famous speech, called, “I Have a Dream.” As said in the opening details of the King Research and Education Institute at Stanford University’s republishing of “I Have a Dream,” “King synthesized portions of his earlier speeches to capture both the necessity for change and the potential for hope in American society.”

The protest marked the peak of King’s influence of the civil rights movement and rallied together African-Americans all over the nation to fight for equality. In 1964, King became the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1965, King organized and led another large protest to demand federal voting rights legislation that would protect the voting rights of African-Americans. 600 people marched from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, a 54-mile trek. As stated in the article, “Selma to Montgomery March” from History, “The historic march, and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s participation in it, raised awareness of the difficulties faced by black voters, and the need for a national Voting Rights Act.” The marchers faced brutality from police forces and other whites who opposed equality. The march represented a huge step in the advancement of the civil rights movement, as well as the extreme harshness of those who were against it.

King’s final speech before his assassination was to striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. As he reflected upon the great strides that the civil rights movement had made for African-Americans over the last decade, he reminded the crowd that there was still much more work to do to make sure equality was reached. King expressed gratitude to all those who continued the fight against discrimination and spoke of the long road ahead, which he hoped to continue with the same stride as before. Unfortunately, King’s life was cut short a day later on August 4, 1968, when he was shot and killed while standing on the balcony of his hotel room by James Earl Ray, a white segregationist. King’s death shook the nation, which led to many prominent leaders speaking out about his legacy and how the fight for equality would continue.

After King’s death, his family made it clear that his efforts for the advancement of civil rights would not go to waste. Coretta King took over for her husband as a prominent civil rights leader and campaigned for the Women’s Movement as well. All four of the King children became involved with activism in one way or another — Yolanda delivered public speeches about civil rights until she died in 2007, Martin III became a human rights advocate, Dexter became an animal rights advocate, and Bernice took directly after her father and became a preacher. Two of the King children were elected as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Martin III in 1997 and Bernice in 2009. Alberta King continued to keep her son’s memory alive through supporting civil rights efforts until she was assassinated by Marcus Chenault while sitting at the organ at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1974.

On April 3, 1968, at the Bishop Charles Mason Temple, Dr. King gave his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, and closed with the words, “And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land” ( “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” King Research and Education Institute), reassuring everyone in the crowd that racial discrimination would one day be abolished, even if he wasn’t there to see it happen. King combined his faith in God and his faith in the movement he was leading to create a confident and convincing platform for those who sought to end racial injustice. King’s unique tactic of protesting peacefully was far more appealing to the general public as opposed to organizing riots or violent events, which were the primary ways of outreach for other African-American revolutionary parties such as the Black Panther Party.

King wanted people to band together and form alliances of support rather than fight with each other, as the civil rights movement was going to need a strong core of members to succeed in winning the fight against discrimination. As Guha Shankar and Kelly Revak said in their article, “A Moral Appeal to an Amoral Society: MLK’s Nonviolent Direct Action,” “We should rightly extol the extraordinary courage of King and the countless individuals who laid their bodies and lives on the line in order to make the dream of an equal and just society for all citizens a reality.” King gave everything he had to stand up to the injustice that he and millions of other African-Americans were facing at the hands of the people of the United States. His number one priority and method of approaching a situation was nonviolence, which has inspired others today to protest peacefully. Martin Luther King Jr. will forever be remembered as a civil rights hero who changed the course of history both during his life and posthumously.

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MLK as a Civil Rights Hero. (2021, Oct 04). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/mlk-as-a-civil-rights-hero/

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