“One of the world’s best known advocates of non-violent social change
strategies, Martin Luther King, Jr. synthesized ideas drawn from many different
cultural traditions.” (Carson 1). However, these protest strategies only
furthered racial segregation, resulting in the eventual death of King.
Michael King, who was later known as Martin Luther King, Jr. was born
January 15, 1929, at 501 Auburn Avenue in Atlanta, Georgia. His roots were in
the African-American Baptist church. After his junior year at Morehouse College,
Benjamin Mays influenced him to become a minister, the president of Morehouse
College. (Smith 1). He studied theologies at Crozer Theological Seminary in
Chester, Pennsylvania, and at Boston University, where he earned a doctorate in
systematic theologies in 1955. (Carson 1). While he was completing his Ph. D.
requirements, Martin Luther King, Jr. decided to return to the south. He became
the pastor of Dextor Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. (Smith 2).
Five days after Rosa Parks refused to obey the city’s rules concerning
bus segregation, African-American residents of Montgomery, Alabama launched a
bus boycott. They elected Martin Luther King, Jr. as president of the Montgomery
Improvement Association. (Phillips 3). King received national prominence as the
boycott continued, due to his personal courage and exceptional oratical skills.
On charges on conspiracy, Martin Luther King, they bombed Jr.’s house,
and they arrested him along with other boycott leaders. (Mark 3). Despite these
actions taken against the boycott, Montgomery buses were desegregated in
December of 1956. The Supreme Court had declared Alabama’s laws of segregation
During 1957, Martin Luther King, Jr. and other African-American
ministers established the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). As
president of the organization, King emphasized the importance of African-
American voting rights. (Phillips 5). King published his first book, Stride
Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story. In 1959, he toured India to increase his
knowledge and understanding of Gandhian non-violent strategies. By the end of
that year, King relinquished the pastorate of Dextor, and returned to Atlanta,
where the Southern Christian Leadership Conference headquarters was located.
Martin Luther King, Jr. did not arrange any mass protest activities
during the first five years to follow the Montgomery bus boycott. While King was
cautious, southern, African-American college students took the initiative,
launching many sit-in protests during the winter and spring of 1960. (Itory 3).
Conflicts between Martin Luther King, Jr. and the younger protestors were
evident when the Southern Christian Leadership Conference assisted the Albany
Movement’s campaign both of mass protest during December of 1961 and during the
summer of 1962. (Phillips 2).
In 1963 Martin Luther King, Jr. and his staff guided mass demonstrations
in Birmingham, Alabama, where local, white police officials were known for their
anti-black attitudes. President Kennedy reacted to the protests by submitting
civil rights legislations to Congress, which passed the Civil Rights Act of 1963.
(Mark 5). In 1963 he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps
of the Lincoln Memorial, attracting 250,000 protestors. (Phillips 4).
In 1966, while participating in a march, he encountered strong criticism
from Stokely Carmichael. Shortly afterwards white counter protestors stabbed him.
in the Chicago area. Despite these conflicts, King still used non-violent
protesting techniques. (Phillips 5).
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s effectiveness was not only limited by
divisions among African-Americans, but by national political leaders. As urban
racial violence escalated in the south, and King criticized American
intervention in the Vietnam War, King lost the support of many white liberals.
His relations with the Lyndon Johnson administration were at a low pont when
Martin Luther Ling, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, while seeking to
assist a garbage worker’s strike in Memphis. (Itory 5).
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man who believed that all people were
created equally. His methods were unconventional; his beliefs were insurgent.
However, time has proven that all progress has been made only when
unconventional methods were employed. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s aspires and
crusades went against those of political authorities and other prominent people.
Because of this, he was considered dangerous. His assassins committed an act of
cowardice. Selfish people assassinated him, who could not see the truth in
White people were not the only ones who objected. Northern, African-
Americans did not agree with Martin Luther King, Jr. either.
“After his death, King remained a controversial symbol of the Afrcian-
American civil rights struggle, revered by many for his martyrdom on behalf of
non-violence and condemned by others for his militancy and insurgent views.”