Paper/Essay on Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr was a very inspiring and good natured person. Being an american baptist minster, activist, humanitarian, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights movement. He is best know for his role in the advancement of Civil Rights, specifically using non-violent Civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs. With his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech he established his reputation as one of the in greatest orators in American history.
Born on January 15th, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, to Reverend Martin Luther King Sr and Alberta Williams King. King’s legal name at birth was Michael King, just as his father’s was, but his father changed both him and his son’s name after a trip to Germany in 1934. In Germany he attended the Fifth Baptist World Alliance Congress in Berlin. Both of the Martin’s were re-named in honor of the German reformer Martin Luther. Martin Luther was a middle child, with elder sister Willie Christine King and younger brother Alfred Daniel Williams King.
King enjoyed singing and music and with his mother being an accomplished organist and choir leader, he was taken to various churches to sing. Later even becoming a member of the choir in his church.
While king was growing up his father regularly whipped him until he was fifteen, reportedly being heard telling the boy at one point that ‘he would make something of him even if he had to beat him to death’. He also saw his father’s proud and unafraid protests in relation to segregation. At one point in his life, he befriended a white boy whose father owned a business near his family’s home. When the boys were six King lost his friend because the child’s father no longer wanted them to play together. Due to this racial humiliation that he and his family received in the segregated South, King suffered through depression for much of his life. At the age of twelve he even jumped from a second story window, blaming himself for his maternal grandmother’s death-but survived.
While attending Booker T. Washington High School he became known for his public speaking ability and was part of the debate team. In 1942, at age 13, King became the youngest assistant manager of a newspaper delivery station for the Atlanta Journal. During his junior year he won first prize in an oratorical contest sponsored by the Negro Elks Club in Dublin Georgia. On his way home, on the bus, the driver told him and his teacher to stand so that the white passengers could sit down. He later characterized this incident as ‘The angriest I have ever been in my life.”.
Due to a lot of youth going off to fight and take a part in Word War Two, during King’s junior year, the schools became desperate to fill classrooms and announced that they would accept any students who passed the entrance exams. At age fifteen, King passed the exam and entered Morehouse College. Then, the summer before his last year at Morehouse, in 1947, at eighteen he made the choice to enter the ministry.
In 1948, King graduated from Morehouse with a B.A, degree in Sociology, and enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania-from which he graduated with a B.Div degree in 1951. His father fully supported his decision to continue his education. At Crozer, King was elected president of the student body. The African-American students of Crozer for the most part conducted their social activity on Edwards Street, King frequently went there as well-due to a classmate having an aunt that prepared the two collard greens, which they both enjoyed.
In his third year he became romantically involved with the daughter of an immigrant German woman working as a cook in the cafeteria. King even had plans of marrying her, but friends urged him not to due the reaction an interracial relationship would cause among the blacks and the whites-as well as destroying his chances of ever pastoring a church in the south. About six months later he broke it off, never really getting over it.
King married Coretta Scott on June 18th, 1953, in her hometown of Heiberger, Alabama.
They became the parents of four children: Yolanda King (b. 1955), Martin Luther King III (b. 1957), Dexter Scott King (b. 1961), and Bernice King (b. 1963). During their marriage, King limited Coretta’s role in the Civil Rights Movement, expecting her to be a housewife and mother.
In 1954 King became a pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist church in Montgomery, Alabama-his main influence being Jesus Christ and the Christian Gospels, which he would almost always quote.
King then began doctoral studies in systematic theology at Boston University and received his Ph.D. degree on June 5, 1955.
King initially believed in and practiced self-defense, even obtaining guns in his household as a means of defense against possible attackers. A mixed group of pacifists guided King by showing him the alternative of nonviolent resistance, arguing that this would be a better means to accomplish his goals of civil rights than self-defense. King then vowed to no longer personally use arms.
Another influence for King’s nonviolent method was Henry David Thoreau’s essay On Civil Disobedience, which King read in his student days. He was influenced by the idea of refusing to cooperate with an evil system.
He also was greatly influenced by the works of Protestant theologians Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich, as well as Walter Rauschenbusch’s Christianity and the Social Crisis. King also sometimes used the concept of “agape” (brotherly Christian love). However, after 1960, he ceased employing it in his writings.
Even after renouncing his personal use of guns, King had a complex relationship with the phenomenon of self-defense in the movement. He publically discouraged it as a widespread practice, but acknowledged that it was sometimes necessary. Throughout his career King was frequently protected by other civil rights activists who carried arms, such as Colonel Stone Johnson, Robert Hayling, and the Deacons for Defense and Justice.
in an interview conducted for Playboy,
he said that granting black Americans only equality could not realistically close the economic gap between them and whites. King said that he did not seek a full restitution of wages lost to slavery, which he believed impossible, but proposed a government compensatory program of $50 billion over ten years to all disadvantaged groups.
He posited that “the money spent would be more than amply justified by the benefits that would accrue to the nation through a spectacular decline in school dropouts, family breakups, crime rates, illegitimacy, swollen relief rolls, rioting and other social evils”. He presented this idea as an application of the common law regarding settlement of unpaid labor, but clarified that he felt that the money should not be spent exclusively on blacks. He stated, “It should benefit the disadvantaged of all races”.
In December 1955, during the Mongomery bus boycott, King was arrested, which concluded with a United States District Court ruling in Browder v. Gayle that ended racial segregation on all Montgomery public buses. The boycott lasted for 385 days, and the situation became so tense that King’s house was bombed.
King’s role in the bus boycott transformed him into a national figure and the best-known spokesman of the civil rights movement.
In 1957, King, Ralph Abernathy, Fred Shuttlesworth, Joseph Lowery, and other civil rights activists founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The group was created to harness the moral authority and organizing power of black churches to conduct nonviolent protests in the service of civil rights reform. One of the group’s inspirations was the crusades of evangelist Billy Graham, who befriended King after he attended a Graham crusade in New York City in 1957. King led the SCLC until his death. The SCLC’s 1957 Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom was the first time King addressed a national audience.
King organized and led marches for blacks’ right to vote, desegregation, labor rights and other basic civil rights. Most of these rights were successfully enacted into the law of the United States with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. King continued fighting for equality through peaceful means up until his assassination in
April 4, 1968, when he was shot and rushed to the hospital. He died
at St. Joseph’s Hospital at 7:05 p.m. He was only 39 years old.