1950’s American Society Found itself – MLK Research

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Updated: May 16, 2022
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“During the 1950’s American society found itself in one of the most divided states ever seen, as the country was still segregated from the unfolded events of slavery and the Civil War. The African American population was put down and segregated. Many found themselves in violation of many basic human rights solely because of the color of their skin color. As this was a complete violation of basic human rights, many leaders of the civil rights movements began to sprout up with the vision of a change in the racial segregations. One of the most notable of these activist, was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister and activist who proclaimed a new dream for the African American public, one in which, “little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers” (“I Have a Dream” 17).

King was born on January 15, 1925 inside a decently well off middle-class family in Atlanta, Georgia. Both King’s father and grandfather were Baptist preachers at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, and on top of which both his parents had received college educations. Like his parents, King was also an extremely studious young man, graduating high school at the age of 15 and receiving many acclaims such as a B.A. degree in 1948 from Morehouse College. King was interested in studying both medical and law studies in college, but both were shadowed when King continued to pursue a life as a minister like his father and grandfather. Although being apart of a prosperous middle class family, King was still exposed and experienced many racist and prejudice actions against African Americans within the South as a child. King had attended segregated schooling in both basic level education and at universities. Through this King witnessed just how truly segregated the country had become, new schools were being built only for the purpose of keeping blacks and whites separated from each other. King had even recalled a time in his early childhood in which his best friends across the street announced that they would no longer be able to play with young King because they were moving to a segregated school. It is events like these in which young King along with thousands of African Americans had to suffer and experience through.

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Witnessing and experiencing the segregation and racism in the South, King started to become one of the most important civil rights activists dedicated to stopping the injustices at hand. In 1954 King became the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, and had also became a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Inside his church and inside the NAACP King was becoming a strong advocate and worker for civil rights progress in the South. Later King became one of the leading influencers of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which was sparked when African American citizen Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man. Parks created a fuse inside the bussing industry, which King capitalized on by proposing a boycott of all city buses by African Americans. King and other civil rights advocates created the Montgomery Improvement Association to work towards de-segregating the public busing system. King and the other leaders of the boycott found success in this movement, as after 382 days of protest, the issue was brought forth to the Supreme Court and ultimately deemed as unconstitutional. The success in this movement lead to the formation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, one of the first and early steps into the progression of the civil rights movement. King was elected president of the conference, and began to further influence the civil rights movement by starting non-violent protest. King’s use of non-violent and peaceful protest was mainly influenced and taken from the efforts of Mahatma Gandhi. King was arrested, abused, and assaulted multiple times during his protest, but continued to fight and peacefully protest against the injustices at hand, as King was certain that nonviolent protesting was the key to receiving rights for his people. King was arrested upwards of 22 times, and assaulted at least 4 times. One of King’s protest in Birmingham, Alabama was able to capture an audience of practically the entire country.

King and his SCLC movement were attracting more attention and a larger audience around the country, continuing to fuel the fight against segregation. King and his platform inspired many “sit-in demonstrations” by young black students at universities, diners, and shops to protest unfair service against blacks. In one of these sit-ins, King was arrested along with 33 other young blacks, and was sentenced to Reidsville State Prison Farm because of an apparent violation of his probation from a small traffic offense. The pubic went crazy over this, as it was making headlines everywhere that King was arrested. King was later released with intercession from John F. Kennedy. King was making headlines and attracting attention everywhere, and the publicity was a helping to spread awareness of the fight. In 1963 King was once again jailed, this time after a protest in Birmingham, known as the Birmingham Campaign. During a peaceful protest lead by King, head of police Eugene Connor used violent and brute methods such as dogs and firehoses on the protesters. During his time spent in Birmingham jail after being arrested, King wrote Letter from a Birmingham Jail that formally addressed the unfairness and segregation of the time. King declared that, “we know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed” (Letter From a Birmingham Jail).

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King’s letter not only touched on the many problems and lack of help amongst some of the Christian and African American community in his letter, but also proposed what could be done for the future. After being released from Birmingham, King and other activist helped to carry out the organization of the March on Washington on August 28, 1968. Here King gave his famous, “I Have a Dream Speech” at the Lincoln Memorial in D.C. Like his letter in Birmingham, King used his intellect and scholarness mixed with his public speaking skills to continue to propose a better future for the African American community. Instead of focusing on revenge or violence to reach his goals King rather proposed, “that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood” (“I Have a Dream” 13). King’s speeches never included any form of violence, and he often used the Bible and made references to his Christian faith inside his speeches. Unfortunately, only a day after giving one of his most famous and inspirational speeches, “I’ve Been to The Mountaintop” King was assassinated on April 4th, 1968 while in Memphis, Tennessee.

Both before and after his death King received much recognition for his work inside the civil rights movement. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1963 for his efforts in the civil rights movement, and even continued to give all his earnings from the award back to the civil rights movement. Not only that, but King was also awarded with being the first African American to receive Time magazine’s Man of the Year award in 1963. Most notably, King was also credited with being one of the main influencers in the Civil Rights Act passing in 1964, which finally outlawed the segregation of any person of a different sex, race, ethnicity, religion, or color. Similarly, King is also credited with being a vital influencer in the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which gave African Americans the right to practice their 15th amendment right to vote. Not only had King achieved all of these recognitions, but he also has a federal holiday that is celebrated every third monday in January each year in his honor. With such efforts put forward to the betterment of this country, it would be a disrespect to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to not receive his own day in his honor”

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1950’s American society found itself - MLK Research. (2021, Jun 26). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/1950s-american-society-found-itself-mlk-research/