Martin Luther King Jnr was a social activist and a Baptist minister who influenced civil rights organizations in America from the 1950s until his death in 1968. King drew his motivation from other advocates of peaceful demonstration like Mahatma Gandhi. His primary goal was to achieve equality to all Americans irrespective of the race, economic status, and religion.
Family and Education
When I asked King Jnr about his family background, he said that he was fortunate to be born in a family of three siblings, an elder sister and younger brother. Having been born in 1929, King Jnr grew up in Atlanta where he noted most wealthy African Americans also inhabited.
Concerning his education and career, King Jnr said he was a school teacher for some period before joining civil rights groups. With a smile on his face, King Jnr recalled how he attended segregated schools before joining college at age 15. He said his father influenced his choice of medicine and law as a career which he studied at Morehouse College. But later King Jnr changed his mind under the influence of Dr. Benjamin May, who was Morehouse College president by then. Dr. Mays was known as an influential advocate for equality. After his graduation in 1948, King said he enrolled for Bachelor of Degree in Divinity in Crozer Theological Seminary . Motivated by his love for theological studies, King enrolled again in another graduate program at the University of Boston. Two years later he graduated with a doctorate in Systematic Theology. King Jnr said he met his wife Coretta Scott while in Boston. He said their wedding happened in 1953 and later settled in Montgomery within Alabama. King stated that they begot four children. When I asked him about his service as a pastor, King said after he had settled in Montgomery, he was ordained as the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.
What Was Happening during Your Life?
I was interested in knowing the experiences King Jnr got in his early life. With a broad smile on his face, King said life was unbearable more so to the African Americans. He noted that only the brave could face life during those days because the governments never focused on serving all citizens equally. He further said that there were many cases of discrimination in all sectors of the economy whereby your color was the only determinant whether anyone deserves government services. When I asked him about job opportunities, King Jnr said white collar jobs were only reserved for the whites while blacks who were lucky could only get regular jobs that require much energy to perform. King Jnr was quick to inform me how blacks were miserable whenever they fell sick. He said that many settlement areas where blacks inhabited did not have health resources, and they could only rely on traditional medicines. He also noted that in earlier days schools were a reserve for the white citizens and black people could only travel long distances to access learning facilities.
I was also interested in knowing whether there were human rights activists by then and how the governments reacted to their quest. King Jnr said that life was never easy for any person who rose to oppose the government. He said that the brutality that many activists experienced at the hands of law enforcers instilled fear on many individuals who planned to join activism. He added that only a few civil activists who were fearless like him and Mahatma Gandhi and others stood firm on their quest. Concerning the political systems during his life, he said that the political structure only centered on dictatorship, and human rights was not a concern for any leader. Citizens were the subjects of self-interest leadership and dictatorial laws enacted during those days. Finally, I wanted to understand how King Jnr and the other few activists endured onslaught from law enforcers. In response, he said that it was only hope kept them alive despite the persecutions and assassinations targeted at civil rights activists.
Popular Myth about Martin Luther King Jnr
King Jnr was known as an ardent activist who was determined to bring change in America. Based on his style of pursuing a change in the society, a modern myth of anti-communism has been labeled upon him. Many scholars have perceived King Jnr as someone who was anti-communist based on his speeches and associations. In an article in the National Review done by Roger Clegg lauded King Jnr for his stance against the oppression of communism. But in his early years, King Jnr made some denunciations of communism with the aim of getting support from liberal white Americans. King Jnr also claimed that the freedom movement group contained as many communists as there were Eskimos in the city of Florida. He was an excellent critique of Soviet Union and never declared his support for communism. But considering his closest friends and personal advisors like Jack O’Dell and Stanley Levison, King Jnr could be perceived a communist since all his associates were communists. In one instance, King Jnr received a warning from John F. Kennedy to stop his association with communists, but he refused to comply.
On several occasions, King Jnr addressed many communist groups such as Lawyers for Democratic Action and National Lawyers Guild. Also, he attended some seminars at Highland Folk School where communist’s tactics were taught and later employed them in his quest for equality in America. The spirit of communism might have also prompted King Jnr to express his opposition to the Vietnam War. He noted that the war was characterized by injustice, imperialism, and racism. Also, he recognized America as the leading nation in causing wars in the whole world.
Martin Luther King Jnr Noteworthy Contribution in American History
The King Jnr led a team of civil activists will be remembered by all generations in the history of America. His struggle and non-violent activities brought much space for freedom, liberty, and equality in American society. When I inquired about his great achievements, King Jnr mentioned the Montgomery Bus Boycott at the beginning of his contribution. He said that in December 1955, the Secretary for National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Chapter was arrested and detained for failing to offer her bus seat for a white passenger. King Jnr said that he and other activists mobilized locals and charged them to boycott the bus for 381 days. After achieving success with the bus boycott, King Jnr stated that they formed Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) which composed of activists and other ministers. The goal of SCLC was to achieve full equity for American citizens.
In 1963, King Jnr was arrested for leading a campaign in Birmingham against segregation, unfair employment and other cases of discrimination. He said that the letter he drafted while in jail in Birmingham, which defended his non-violence disobedience. He added that the letter was specifically for the white clergymen who were opposed to his tactics. King Jnr said that their quest for equality got a boost by an organized march on Washington which recorded the highest participants. The March on Washington paved the way for enactment of Civil Rights Act 1964 which addressed equality and freedom to American citizens.