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Martin Luther king Jr. A short biography.

Updated on June 9, 2014

Martin Luther King Jr was an African American preacher as his grandfather and father before him. Growing up, he was exposed very early the black segregation of the 1950s. He had a white boy as his friend when he was younger, but when they reached school age they had to go to different schools. He was shocked when his anxious parents explained to him that their friendship had to end because he was different because of this black skin, meaning being black, he belongs to an inferior race. His parents told him to show love to the white people which he replied that ‘How can I love a race of people who hate me?’ To return hate for hate seem logical to him.

That changed when he went to study Divinity at Crozer seminary in Pennsylvanian and attended a lecture on Ghandi. It was a revelation to him and at the same time an answer as to a way for him to reply to injustice. He had found his hero and life commitment. Ghandi, like Jesus stood out against injustice without violence, bitterness and hate. For example, Ghandi didn’t want to destroy the British in India but the social evil that was allowed to flourish, to ‘redeem them through love and thus avoid a legacy of bitterness’. He could no longer hate the whites but his aim now was to save them from themselves. Practising the expression to love ones enemies as his way of life, he could change the face of the American south. Going on to Boston University to study Theology and graduating with his doctorate in 1955 and marrying Coretta Scott, the world now lay at his feet. However, he felt driven that his destiny laid with the blacks in the south. It was there that he would have his opportunity to put Ghandi’s ideas to test.

In 1954, the young pastor and his family went to live in Montgomery. There he preached to his flock about non-violent and conciliatory approach to their domestic problems. He had a remarkable way with words; he was the master of words.

Before long he was elected into National Association for the Advancement of the Coloured Peoples (the most prominent of the organisations formed to combat white supremacy). The whites were also determined that any anti-segregation laws wouldn’t have any effect thus setting up the White Citizens’ Council. During that time, blacks were savagely punished for the smallest crimes while the white could torture, rape a black or burn and bomb their churches and homes and found not guilty. On the buses in Montgomery there where large ‘WHITES ONLY’ signs that banned the first four rows of seats. Blacks were not allowed to sit there even when it’s empty and if they’re full, the blacks have to give up their seats to the white. Most of the black out of habit or fear and the desire to keep out of trouble submit without protest or comply with the treatment even though it was degrading.

It was so until December 2, 1955 when a black seamstress refused to give up her seat to a white man and wouldn’t budge until the driver called the police who ‘booked’ her. It was the end of rope for the black and their fury knew no bounds. Martin Luther King called a meeting at his church and fifty civic leaders and preachers attended and they agreed on a bus boycott. It was the start of the Montgomery bus boycott that would last for 382 days and the platform that launch his eleven years non-violence fight against the racial divide and inequality. On December 5, no blacks rode the buses to town or school. Thousands walked or thumbed lifts. A permanent committee was formed to run the boycott called the Montgomery Improvement Association and Martin Luther King was elected President. That night he held a meeting and delivered a spell bounding oratory to try winning his fellow blacks into action without violence. On December 21, 1956 the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the segregation laws on buses and Negroes and Whites rode on the buses as equals. During that time he was subjected to personal abuse, arrested and his house bombed but he emerged as a Negro leader of the first rank.

In 1957 he was elected as the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to lead the now growing civil rights movement. Its ideals were taken from Christianity with operational techniques from Ghandi. The eleven years between 1957 and 1968, Martin Luther King travelled and spoke wherever there was injustice. He led a massive peaceful protest in Birmingham, Alabama that caught the attention of the world which he called the coalition of conscience. He also directed a peaceful march on Washington DC which he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech to 250, 000 people.

He was awarded 5 honorary degrees ,named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1963 and he was the youngest Nobel Prize winner in 1964 at 35 years old and not only become a symbolic leader of the black Americans but a world figure as well.

On the evening of April 4, 1968 when as he stood on the balcony of his hotel in Memphis, Tennessee a bullet tore at his throat quieting the haunting voice forever.


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