Posts Tagged ‘civil rights’

Often times we are maltreated and denied what is rightfully ours. We take the blame for crimes committed against us. Disgraced and relegated to the background. Most times in such instances we seat and watch our world crumble before our very eyes. Other times we accept this ill fate and retire to counting the days left before we finally get to meet with our creator. It is on very few occasions that we tend to rise up and fight back. Chaos, blood shed and death are the usual turn of events when wars are being waged against a much stronger opposition. Perhaps the story was a whole lot different in the early 60s when a clergyman and civil rights activist gave up the conventional sword and shield for a pen and paper, matching on against the dreadful and intimidating white people of the United States, preaching equality among races.

The stench of segregation still lingers on till today. That only gives a foresight of what it was like barely half a century ago judging by the advancement in civilization from that time to date. Born on January 15, 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. was an American Baptist minister, activist, humanitarian, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He remains one of the few who rose up to fight; against the far-reaching claws of segregation, the heart piercing psychological trauma of racial discrimination. What is so fascinating about this African American hero is his non-violent approach in restoring glory to the blacks.

Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia, USA as Michael Luther King Jr. before in 1934 a trip to Germany to attend the Fifth Baptist World Alliance Congress in Berlin incited a change of name by Martin Luther king Sr. for himself and his son as well. His father had chosen to be called Martin Luther King in honor of the German reformer Martin Luther. MLK as he is popularly known, had attended Morehouse College (B.A.), Crozer Theological Seminary (B.D.), as well as Boston University where he obtained a PhD.

As a civil right activist he kicked off his career by first leading the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott. In 1957 he founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference which is an African American civil rights organization with the goal of redeeming the “soul of America” through nonviolent resistance. He served as its first president. King’s 1962 Albany Movement was unsuccessful but notwithstanding he helped organize the 1963 nonviolent protests in Birmingham, Alabama which attracted national attention following television news coverage of the brutal police response. It wasn’t until the 1963 “March on Washington” where he delivered his famous “I have a dream speech” that he gained his recognition as one of the greatest orators of the United States.

MLK has in no doubt proven to the world that violent protest is not the only way to combat civil unrest. He illustrated the power of spoken words and was able to reach deep into the hearts of many to prick the conscience of the discriminating whites. His efforts were indeed recognised and rewarded when on October 14, 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolence. In 1965 he marched on moving as far as chicago. He later included poverty and spoke against the Vietnam War. His 1967 speech titled “Beyond Vietnam” gained a lot of credits worldwide.

We all get faced with conflicting issues. We may find ourselves forced into tight uncomfortable corners. Sometimes the pressure becomes too much to bear. How do we respond to such situations? Do we result into violence or seek to tread peacefully? I believe the life and story of Martín Luther King Jr. stirs up the urge and need to believe in the power of peaceful dialogue. This way we can win the war and not just the battles.

In 1968, King was planning a national occupation of Washington, D.C., to be called the Poor People’s Campaign, when he was assassinated on April 4 in Memphis, Tennessee by James Earl Ray.