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Martin Luther King, Jr., (January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968) was born Michael Luther King, Jr., but later had his name changed to Martin. His grandfather began the family's long tenure as pastors of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, serving from 1914 to 1931; his father has served from then until the present, and from 1960 until his death Martin Luther acted as co-pastor. Martin Luther attended segregated public schools in Georgia, graduating from high school at the age of fifteen; he received the B. A. degree in 1948 from Morehouse College, a distinguished Negro institution of Atlanta from which both his father and grandfather had been graduated.

After three years of theological study at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania where he was elected president of a predominantly white senior class, he was awarded the B.D. in 1951. With a fellowship won at Crozer, he enrolled in graduate studies at Boston University, completing his residence for the doctorate in 1953 and receiving the degree in 1955 In Boston he met and married Coretta Scott, a young woman of uncommon intellectual and artistic attainments. Two sons and two daughters were born into the family.

 Always a strong worker for civil rights for black people, King was, by this time, a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, a leading organization  in the USA. 

 Civil rights activism

In 1953, at the age of twenty-four, King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church—the most distinguished black church in Montgomery, Alabama. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to comply with the Jim Crow law that required her to give up her seat to a white man. The Montgomery Bus Boycott, led by King, soon followed. It lasted for 382 days, the situation becoming so tense that King's house was bombed. King was arrested during this campaign, which ended with a United States Supreme Court decision outlawing racial segregation on intrastate buses and all public transport.

Following the campaign, King was instrumental in the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, a group created to harness the moral authority and organizing power of black churches to conduct nonviolent protests in the service of civil rights reform. King continued to dominate the organization until his death. King was an adherent of the philosophies of nonviolent civil disobedience used successfully in India by Mahatma Gandhi, and he applied this philosophy to the protests organized by the SCLC.

The FBI began wiretapping King in 1961, fearing that communists were trying to infiltrate the civil rights movement, but when no such evidence emerged, the bureau used the incidental details caught on tape over six years in attempts to force King out of the pre-eminent leadership position. Garrow, op.cit. p. 126.

Pacifist A. J. Muste, the executive director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, served as an advisor to Martin Luther King Jr. King correctly recognized that organized, nonviolent protest against the racist system of southern segregation known as Jim Crow laws would lead to extensive media coverage of the struggle for black equality and voting rights. Indeed, journalistic accounts and televised footage of the daily deprivation and indignities suffered by southern blacks, and of segregationist violence and harassment of civil rights workers and marchers, produced a wave of sympathetic public opinion that made the Civil Rights Movement the single most important issue in American politics in the early-1960s.

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 United States law with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

King and the SCLC applied the principles of nonviolent protest with great success by strategically choosing the method of protest and the places in which protests were carried out in often dramatic stand-offs with segregationist authorities. Sometimes these confrontations turned violent. King and the SCLC were instrumental in the unsuccessful protest movement in Albany, in 1961 & 1962, where divisions within the black community and the canny, low-key response by local government defeated efforts; in the Birmingham protests in the summer of 1963; and in the protest in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1964. King and the SCLC joined forces with SNCC in Selma, Alabama, in December 1964, where SNCC had been working on voter registration for a number of months.

Stance on compensation

On several occasions King expressed a view that black Americans, as well as other disadvantaged Americans, should be compensated for historical wrongs. Among his comments:

"Whenever this issue [compensatory treatment] is raised, some of our friends recoil in horror. The Negro should be granted equality, they agree, but should ask for nothing more. On the surface, this appears reasonable, but is not realistic. For it is obvious that if a man enters the starting line of a race three hundred years after another man, the second would have to perform some incredible feat in order to catch up."

"A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for him, to equip him to compete on a just and equal basis."

". . . for 5 centuries the Negro was enslaved and robbed of any wages—potential accrued wealth which would have been the legacy of his descendants. All of America's wealth today could not adequately compensate its Negroes for his centuries of exploitation and humiliation. It is an economic fact that a program such as I propose would certainly cost far less than any computation of two centuries of unpaid wages plus accumulated interest. In any case, I do not intend that this program of economic aid should apply only to the Negro: it should benefit the disadvantaged of all races."[2]

Furthermore, King also supported the idea of massive government compensation in his book Why We Can't Wait, 1964. In this book, King writes,

"No amount of gold could provide an adequate compensation for the exploitation and humiliation of the Negro in America down through the centuries . . . . Yet a price can be placed on unpaid wages. The ancient common law has always provided a remedy for the appropriation of the labor of one human being by another. This law should be made to apply for American Negroes. The payment should be in the form of a massive program by the government of special, compensatory measures which could be regarded as a settlement in accordance with the accepted practice of common law."[3]

The March on Washington

King and SCLC, in partial collaboration with SNCC, then attempted to organize a march from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery, for March 25, 1963. The first attempt to march on March 7, was aborted due to mob and police violence against the demonstrators. This day since has become known as Bloody Sunday. Bloody Sunday was a major turning point in the effort to gain public support for the Civil Rights Movement, the clearest demonstration up to that time of the dramatic potential of King's nonviolence strategy. King, however, was not present. After meeting with President John F. Kennedy, he had attempted to delay the march until March 8, but the march was carried out against his wishes and without his presence by local civil rights workers. The footage of the police brutality against the protesters was broadcast extensively across the nation and aroused a national sense of public outrage.

The second attempt at the march on March 9 was ended when King stopped the procession at the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the outskirts of Selma, an action which he seemed to have negotiated with city leaders beforehand. This unexpected action aroused the surprise and anger of many within the local movement. The march finally went ahead fully on March 25, with the agreement and support of President Kennedy, and it was during this march that Willie Ricks coined the phrase "Black Power" (widely credited to Stokely Carmichael).

King, representing SCLC, was among the leaders of the so-called "Big Six" civil rights organizations who were instrumental in the organization of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. The other leaders and organizations comprising the Big Six were: Roy Wilkins, NAACP; Whitney Young, Jr., Urban League; A. Philip Randolph, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; John Lewis, SNCC; and James Farmer of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). For King, this role was another which courted controversy, as he was one of the key figures who acceded to the wishes of President John F. Kennedy in changing the focus of the march. Kennedy initially opposed the march outright, because he was concerned it would negatively impact the drive for passage of civil rights legislation, but the organizers were firm that the march would proceed.

The march originally was conceived as an event to dramatize the desperate condition of blacks in the South and a very public opportunity to place organizers' concerns and grievances squarely before the seat of power in the nation's capital. Organizers intended to excoriate and then challenge the federal government for its failure to safeguard the civil rights and physical safety of civil rights workers and blacks, generally, in the South. However, the group acquiesced to presidential pressure and influence, and the event ultimately took on a far less strident tone.

As a result, some civil rights activists felt it presented an inaccurate, sanitized pageant of racial harmony; Malcolm X called it the "Farce on Washington," and members of the Nation of Islam who attended the march faced a temporary suspension.[4]

The march did, however, make specific demands: an end to racial segregation in public school; meaningful civil rights legislation, including a law prohibiting racial discrimination in employment; protection of civil rights workers from police brutality; a $2 minimum wage for all workers; and self-government for the District of Columbia, then governed by congressional committee.

Despite tensions, the march was a resounding success. More than a quarter of a million people of diverse ethnicities attended the event, sprawling from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial onto the National Mall and around the reflecting pool. At the time, it was the largest gathering of protesters in Washington's history. King's I Have a Dream speech electrified the crowd. It is regarded, along with President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, as one of the finest speeches in the history of American oratory. President Kennedy, himself opposed to the march, met King afterwards with enthusiasm - repeating King's line back to him; "I have a dream", while nodding with approval.

Throughout his career of service, King wrote and spoke frequently, drawing on his long experience as a preacher. His "Letter from Birmingham Jail", written in 1963, is a passionate statement of his crusade for justice. On October 14, 1964, King became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to him for leading non-violent resistance to end racial prejudice in the United States. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.

On the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers of that city, he was assassinated.

 

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Credit: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Text Box: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” 
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Text Box: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
1929-1968

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1807-2007

 

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 of  The Slave Trade Abolition  Act 1807.

 

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“All faith is FALSE, all faith is TRUE.

TRUTH is the shattered mirrors strewn In myriad bits; while each BELIEVES

His LITTLE BIT the whole to own.”

 

From “The Kasidah of Hji Abu el-Yezdi”, as translated by Sir Richard F. Burton