Martin Luther King (Dr. King) is perhaps the most renowned personality of the civil rights movement in America. King was practically the leader of the civil rights movement. His popularity started after he led other activists in boycotting the services of the Montgomery Bus Service in the year 1955 after an incident of open discrimination of a black woman in the bus.
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He therefore became an activist due to incidences and laws of segregation of black people. Places where such incidences occurred include public schools, restaurants and hotels. His fame was particularly because he advocated for non-violent strikes and protests as opposed to other activists like Malcolm X. Martin Luther King Jr. was the embodiment of the campaign for civil rights and he gave the movement massive international cover.
After leading the boycott and protests against the Montgomery Bus Service, King was arrested and fined a thousand dollars. King’s house was also firebombed and his followers were intimidated. However, by December 1956, the bus service had lifted segregation policies. In 1957, Martin Luther King Jr. was active in the Southern Leadership Conference, an organization created with an objective of organizing peaceful demonstrations against racial discrimination.
He also travelled across the U.S. making speeches and campaigning for support of the civil rights movement. He urged blacks to use their economic power to keep the movement strong by using business owners who supported the movement and boycotting those who supported segregation. His support for J. F. Kennedy helped Kennedy beat Richard Nixon by a narrow margin in the 1960 election.
Kennedy shared the same ideas as King. After becoming President of the U.S., he proposed the civil rights bill. To get Congress’ support for the bill, Dr. King, together with other activists, organized the famous March on Washington. The march was held in 1963, August 28th and it culminated to the ‘I have a dream’ speech. Dr. King delivered the speech in front of about half a million people and it was listened to all over the world.
The speech therefore publicized the civil rights movement in the U.S. and all over the world. Congress accepted Kennedy’s bill and it led to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Many Americans view this as a tribute to Kennedy, who was assassinated for his involvement in the civil rights movement.
Because of the great work that Dr. King did, he was the 1964 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. He remains the youngest Nobel Laureate in the history of the Prize, having received it at thirty-five years of age. After campaigning for the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Dr. King moved on to defend the voting rights of his fellow black Americans.
His efforts led to the 1965 Voting Rights Act. He then went on to defend the poor, both white and black, in America. He took a radical approach to issues like the Vietnam War, using the word “revolution” as he made some of his speeches. Dr. King also became active in issues relating to trade unions.
Martin Luther King Jr. made several enemies due to his activism. Some of these enemies bugged his rooms and released recordings to the press accusing him of sexual improprieties. James Ray, a white racist, assassinated King in Tennessee when he was thirty-nine years of age. His death, in April 4, 1968, led to worldwide mourning and protests by blacks throughout America. To date, the United States celebrates his birthday in January as a national holiday.