ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Martin Luther King Jr., A Peaceful, Revolutionary Leader

Updated on February 25, 2014
Martin Luther King, Jr. at a meeting in the White House.
Martin Luther King, Jr. at a meeting in the White House. | Source

Related Reading

Martin Luther King, Jr. is often considered the face of the civil rights movement throughout the mid 1900’s and on. Although he had many enemies and faced much oppression, he never faltered from the “love everybody” attitude for which he is so famous. In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, King addresses eight prominent Alabama clergymen whom had previously written King, asking him to discontinue his leadership and civil disobedience. King represents a revolutionary thinker, writer, and leader by inviting his critics to join him in nonviolent, loving brotherhood, while laying out his methods and reasoning in order to help the clergymen understand where he is coming from and to make his intentions clear. He trail blazes the path for future nonviolent protestors who view the laws as unjust and are willing to pay the consequences for sticking to their morals, while peacefully protesting and bringing to light issues that may be suppressed among the community.

King’s views and actions are very significant for the time period. Although many people felt the same way as King, he is the first to gain momentum behind his strictly nonviolent fight for equality in quantities that had the power to make a difference. His eloquent speeches, dedication to civil rights, perseverance through adversity, and unwavering desire to join the nation in brotherhood and love are all substantial factors in his popularity and effectiveness as a revolutionary leader. In addition, he has four basic steps which he and his followers adhere to in order to carry out their non violent campaigns: “(1) collections of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive, (2) negotiation, (3) self-purification, and (4) direct action” (King 85). By laying out the plan for every protest and stand against the unequal treatment of African Americans, King lays the groundwork for a successful, peaceful, and organized revolution. This gives his demonstrations consistency and credibility, which works in favor for his reputation as a leader.

King’s main philosophy centers around the view that we are all one nation of people, inherently equal, and that we owe it to ourselves and those around us to peacefully but assertively demand those rights. He speaks out against a divided nation: “Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea. Anyone who lives in the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere in this country” (King 85). To King, it is imperative that all citizens be treated as such, on equal footing, rather than holding certain races in higher regard than others. He implies that he will not stop in his fight for justice until equality is had throughout America: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (King 85). King’s dedication to achieving equality has both breadth and depth, as he travels throughout the South and organizes many demonstrations in which his followers can participate. King also urges everyone to look at the unjust situations that serve as catalysts for these demonstrations, rather than focusing solely at the demonstrations themselves, “I am sure that each of you would want to go beyond the superficial social analyst who looks merely at effects, and does not grapple with underlying causes” (King 85). King goes on to say that while it is unfortunate that civil disobediences are taking place, the true tragedy is the fact that they are even necessary in the first place. By using the basic premise of equal rights among all citizens of the United States, regardless of skin color, and encouraging people to recognize the injustices that are causing such unrest, King sets himself up for success with sound, logical principles that everyone can understand.

King’s key form of protest, nonviolent direct action, starts a revolution in the civil rights movement. Although King takes inspiration from nonviolent, civil disobedience ideas of famous figures such as Gandhi and Jesus, he introduces and promotes it in the fight for civil rights. He uses demonstrations such as sit-ins and matches to bring issues to light in society: “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored” (King 86). In this way, King cleverly takes oppressive laws or customs and turns them around on the oppressors, making awkward, uncomfortable situations that highlight problems that were previously swept under the rug. He believes that peaceful protests are acceptable ways to facilitate change within communities: “We must see the need of having nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men to rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood” (King 87). This method of protest encourages conversations and negotiations between the opposing groups, which is the start of working towards equality. King’s use of nonviolent direct action is effective, yet diplomatic, and ultimately works towards his goal of equality and freedom for all in a unique way.

Another aspect of actions King promotes includes disobeying immoral or unjust laws. He defines unjust laws as a law that negatively affects a certain group of people, which they did not vote themselves: “An unjust law is a code that a majority inflicts on a minority that is not binding on itself. This is difference made legal. On the other hand a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal” (King 89). The idea that certain laws are just, while other actions, though legal, are unjust, is an important differentiation. This distinction gives weight to King’s reasoning behind determining which laws are acceptable to break in a peaceful manner: “I hope you can see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law as the rabid segregationist would do. This would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do it openly, lovingly… and with a willingness to accept the penalty” (King 90). While King encourages followers to break unjust laws, he emphasizes that it will not be without legal consequence. Rather, he urges disciples to embrace the consequences as a sacrifice to show others the unfairness thrust upon them. King even asserts that it is a person’s duty to stand up to laws which are immoral: “I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty,… is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law” (King 90). He realizes that the country cannot function without laws to create order; however, he opposes laws that oppress the rights of those who had no say in making them. Standing up to unfair laws and putting in the effort to make them more just for all citizens, King argues, shows respect for the government in that it proves civil rights activists are not interested in abolishing the government; rather, they want to change the laws in order to make the country a better place. This reasoning concerning laws gives legitimacy to King’s ideas and actions, bolstering his reputation as a revolutionary leader.

In addition to describing his theories and plans of action, King also disputes the accusation that he is an extremist in the civil rights movement. He strives to be levelheaded, somewhere in the middle ground between extreme camps of civil rights activists: “I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of extremists” (King 93). He describes the two opposing attitudes within the African American community. One group of people is complacent and uncaring, convinced that equality will never be reached: “[They] have been so completely drained of self-respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation” (King 93). This forlorn and hopeless attitude is understandable after so many years of poor treatment, but it is not effective in fighting for equality. The other extreme side consists of those who are enraged by oppression: “The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and comes perilously close to advocating violence” (King 93). King, standing in the middle ground between the two extreme groups, has the unique ability to gather supporters from both sides, increasing the number of active, though peaceful, followers fighting for freedom. In addition, upon further thought on the topic of extremists, he concedes that he is an extremists – an extremist advocating for love, peace, and justice – who is unwilling to rest until the day when all citizens are equal. This recognition of the accusations of his enemies, and more importantly, his response to them, is a vital part of becoming personally recognized as a progressive and kind leader.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is a revolutionary leader due to his insistence of brotherly love, nonviolent direct action, and just laws, all of which put a unique, peaceful spin on the civil rights movement, gaining large numbers of followers from various groups of people. His eloquence and ability to communicate calmly, but compassionately, with his opposition allow others to respect King and his views. More importantly, his sound reasoning, based on peace, equality, and love, enable others to relate to him and his ideas, therefore growing the peaceful support for the civil rights movement. With all the makings of a strong leader and the right ideas to bring about justice, King played a crucial role in finally acquiring equality for African Americans. Despite his many enemies, King will live on forever in his legacy as a talented writer, speaker, and leader who refused to settle for anything less than peace and justice, while uniting the nation under a love and acceptance regardless of race.

Works Cited

“Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Writings and Speeches That Changed the World. Ed. James M. Washington. New York: Harper Collins, 1992. 83-100.

Your Turn:

What do you think of King?

See results


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)