Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King was a well-known leader of non-violent and successful movement for equalization of colored people with the white people. Like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela he fought against global segregation. He reached the introduction of the civil rights and created a foundation against the racism. But however he could not eliminate the racism in the USA and change the bad living conditions of the blacks.
The situation of the blacks at the beginning of the 20th century:
-had no voting rights
-could not live everywhere, only in certain districts
-were not allowed to use the same public toilets like the white people, they were separated
-could not eat at the same counter in a restaurant
-were not allowed to marry a white person (legal prohibition)
-had separate schools than the white people
Michael King, later Martin Luther King Jr.
was born on January the 15th in Atlanta (Georgia). His mother was Alberta King (1904 - 1974), a teacher and his father Michael King Sen. (1899 - 1984) was a reverend of a Baptist Church. He also had two sisters. Because Michael King Sen. admired Martin Luther he renamed himself and his son in Martin Luther King Sen.
and Martin Luther King Jr..
Education of M. L. King:
When King Jr. was 17 years old he became a preacher in the church of his father in Atlanta, Georgia.
At the same time he visited the Morehouse College there, the only College for blacks in the South. For studying theology he went to the Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester (Pennsylvania). He worried not to fulfil the standards of the white people, that’s why he learned intensively and became the best of his grade. Martin read a lot about Mahatma Gandhi, whose non-violent behaviour impressed and coined him for life. In 1951 he graduated with Bachelor of Divinity. Later he wrote the doctoral thesis on the Harvard University in Boston (Massachusetts).
After his studies on the New England College he became a doctor of theology.
On June the 18th King married Coretta Scott in Marion (Alabama). They got four children.
In September King moved to Montgomery (Alabama), for preaching in the Dexter Avenue Baptist church, where he got a community. Already in his childhood King had to suffer as well as all black people under the racism. That was the reason why King created a committee for political and social problems in his church .
He advertised for the entry in organizations like the Montgomery Improvement Association as well. It was an association for civil rights and against segregation.
Desegregation in buses
A black woman was founded guilty, because she refused to leave her seat for a white person. It followed the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. It was a movement for the non-violent resistance against discrimination and racism. King was appointed as its chairmen one month later.
This organization requested for the boycott of the public means of transport. The blacks locked the streets and demonstrated. The will was interspersed by passive resistance. The boycott lasted about one year and the bus company lost two third of their turnover. King participated in demonstrations and protest actions. Finally the US Supreme Court explained the segregation for unconstitutional and ruled the desegregation.
The first success gave King a sense of achievement, so he left Montgomery for concentrating on the penetration of the interests of blacks.
King met with president John F. Kennedy to receive support for the civil rights of blacks. The president made a legislative proposal. Kennedy always sympathised the intentions of King.
At the beginning of the sixties there were a lot of demonstrations for the civil rights in towns like New York, Rochester, Philadelphia and Birmingham.
Because the government was against the movement, the police did anything to prevent it, even to avoid violence.
Demonstration in Birmingham
In May in Birmingham (Alabama) was one of the hardest encounter between demonstrators and police. The demonstration was prevented by police dogs and water-cannons. But the non-violent method of Martin Luther King proved to be effective.
The actions of King caused a flurry of excitement. More and more black citizens followed King.
Numerous donations were carried out for further actions. The highest donated sum amounted to 10,000 dollar.
March on Washington
On August the 28th there was the biggest demonstration for civil rights. About 250,000 civil rights activists participate in the famous “March on Washington”. At the Lincoln Memorial King held the famous “I Have A Dream”-speech. In it he wished equal civil rights for everybody and a peaceful life for white and black people together.
Martin Luther King was marked as the person of the year 1963.
Declaration of the Civil Right Act
In June the American senate and the following president Lyndon B. Johnson signed the civil right act for the abolition of the segregation. It was not the first civil rights, but the most thorough and most effective. The content of the act was that it is prohibited to distinguish the citizens because of the color of the skin.
On the strength of efforts in regard to civil rights movement King received as the first black person the Nobel peace prize on December the 20th.
In reality the situation of blacks improved only slowly. Many people turned away from King, particularly young people, because they lost their belief in the effectiveness of Kings methods. Many violent associations were created. The most well-known was the „Black Power“. One of their actions was the “Meredith Mississippi March” (Meredith was the founder of “Black Power”) in 1966. For these people a life together with the white population was impossible and they even demanded the dividing of the USA in “a white and a black state”.
Once Stokely Carmichael, the leader of the radical movement, was a rival of King.
“Selma to Montgomery” and the Voting Rights Act
King continued demonstrating and demanding the voting rights for everybody. He organized the march from Selma to Montgomery. About 3,200 human participated in it. During the march took place, King met with president Lyndon B. Johnson and other American politicians in order to speak about the right to vote for African Americans.
Before the demonstrators arrived in Montgomery, the police attacked them with tear gas and truncheon. On this day many people were injured and some even died there. The “bloody Sunday” received the national attention and many further demonstrations followed. In the same year after the
approval of president Johnson the Voting Rights Act were signed. From this moment as the result of the “bloody Sunday” the blacks got their voting rights.
In the same year the Vietnam War started.
After the first information of the destruction in Vietnam King turned away from the role of his mother country. The first reason was that he was a pacifist. The Vietnamese suffered from the US attacks and the American blacks had to fight on the front and were not spared. And the second reason was during the money was spent on ammunition that more and more human had to live in poverty. So King, the recognized leader of blacks, began apart from the fight for the equal rights the fight against the poverty. He planned a march against poverty for the year 1968.
At the latest since this moment King was exposed to massive criticism and got many adversaries like Lyndon B. Johnson, the government and the executive.
On April the 4th King was shot in a motel in Memphis (Tennessee) at the age of 39 years. Officially James Earl Ray, allegedly a white racist was published as the murderer. At first he confessed and was condemned to 99 years detention in the state prison. Heavy race troubles arose, particularly in Washington and Chicago.
Many mourning parades and services took place. King was buried solemnly in Alabama in the presence of many US politicians. King`s widow and many different meant that King’s death was a conspiracy. In his speech 24 hours before his death King said: „It doesn`t really matter with me now, because I`ve been to the mountaintop. And I don`t mind.“ These words made the theory of the conspiracy likely.
It was discussed whether King had perhaps death notions. Because James Earl Ray took his statement back, further assumptions followed.
The Supreme Court explains officially that Martin Luther King’s death was a conspiracy on the part of the mafia and the US government. Because of the big influence of King everybody was concerned that he could become a problem for the government. James Earl Ray affirmed until his death in the state prison in 1998 his innocence.
Martin Luther King wrote five books about the situation of the blacks in North America: Stride Toward Freedom (1958), Strength to Love (1963), Why We Can't Wait (1964), Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (1967), and The Trumpet of Conscience (1968).
The incomes he donated to the Morehouse college and to the Dexter Avenue Baptist church. After his death his family inherited only 5,000 dollar and a house in Atlanta. The 112,000 dollar, which he got as the Nobel peace prize, he donated to the civil rights movement. After his death King was awarded with the Jawaharlal Nehru price for his earnings. His wife received it in India. King became an honour doctor of numerous universities like the University of Amsterdam.
Today in Atlanta there is still the King Memorial Institutes. Martin Luther King lived a dangerous life and that was the reason for his death. In his life King was arrested several times and his house was often attempted. Since 1986 the third Monday in January was recognized as a holiday.
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