Martin Luther King Jr. a Historical and Religious Figure

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As a well known figure across the United States and even the world, Martin Luther King Jr., the son of reverend Martin Luther King, is considered one of the greatest activists of all time. His ability to peacefully protests against the racism and bigotry that went on during the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s was “”closely related to his Protestant faith (BBC, 2009). Martin Luther King Jr. followed the footsteps of his father and grandfather in becoming a pastor at a Baptist church.

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Through his faith and testament to “”love your enemies, Dr. King went on to become a historical and religious figure that preached nonviolence.

Born in 1929, Martin Luther King Jr., whose name was originally Michael, grew up in a family of pastors. His grandfather was a pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta as well as his father. Growing up, Martin attended schools in Georgia that were segregated and graduated high school at the age of fifteen according to The Nobel Peace Prize. Right after high school he went on to attend Morehouse College where he received his B.A and later went on to seminary school at Crozer Theological Seminary school in Pennsylvania. By 1955, Martin received his doctorates at Boston University and while he was in Boston, he met Coretta Scott who he later married and had children with.

By 1954, Dr. King was a pastor in Montgomery, Alabama at Dexter Avenue Baptist church. In this same year, the Supreme Court had just ruled that “”separate but equal schools in the United States were unconstitutional in the court case of Brown v. Board of Education. Prior to this significant event in the Civil Rights Movement, in 1896, the Supreme Court ruled that in Plessy v. Ferguson “”racially segregated public facilities were legal, so long as the facilities for blacks and whites were equal (Brown v. Board of Education). The time that it took to identify schools that were segregated was unconstitutional took 58 years. It was during the mid 50s that Dr. King began to participate in activism and speaking in front of large crowds in order to draw attention to the inequality that was still going on to the African American community.

By 1955, Dr. King became a spokesman at the Montgomery Bus Boycott which was a long held boycott where many African Americans stopped taking the bus because of the separate seating sections for black and white people. This event took place in a very segregated city in America and although it meant that many African American families would have to walk to school, work, and church, they were able to reign victorious as the Supreme Court eventually ruled that “”racial segregation on transportation was unconstitutional (The King Center) after 361 day of boycotting the bussing system. This was one of the first significant moments in Martin Luther King Jr.’s role in the Civil Rights Movement.

In 1957, Martin Luther King Jr. was elected as the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (Martin Luther King Jr. Biography) which was an organization that helped provide a leadership platform for those participating in the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King Jr. used his platform specifically to preach about how to approach the inequality and racism at hand. Being a Christian reverend, he preached based off the teachings of the Bible, specifically the teachings of the New Testament and he took after Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violence teachings. Through Dr. King’s teachings and actions, he was able to appear as the most significant American Civil Rights leader.

An example of Martin Luther King Jr. putting the words of the Bible into action was in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. Birmingham was considered “”the most segregated city in America (About Dr. King) and numerous of crimes against the African American community were done there due to many people’s intolerance. For example, there were many bombings of churches, kidnapping and raping of African Americans, and even physical and verbal abuse done in the public. Dr. King as well as many people in the African American community gathered around the city to protest against the laws created that prevented their community from having equal rights.

During this protest, those that came out were told by Dr. King that the could not fight back in any way, shape or form. Not only would it give those against them a reason to fight back, but it went against the teachings in the Bible and the non-violent ways of Gandhi. In the Bible, Jesus says, “”38 “”You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. (Matthew 5:38-40) . Martin Luther King Jr. modeled his work after the teachings of Jesus and reminded those who were apart of his movement to do just as Jesus did when he was being persecuted by the Pharisees and Romans.

With Dr. King’s words in mind, those who followed him and his teachings went into the streets of Birmingham suffered an astounding amount of pain for the sake of their cause. As described in multiple sources and documentaries, the African Americans that participated in this peaceful protest were met by police officers who had alongside them police dogs and water hoses. The protestors were beat up, bitten by police dogs, and hosed down by powerful hoses. When video recording of what happened to the peaceful protestors was aired on national television, there was outrage not only in the United States, but around the world, knowing that this was how peaceful people were treated, there was a large push for civil rights legislation.

With all the work done in his teachings and peaceful protests, Martin Luther King Jr. knew that there was still more work to be done. After being able to push for legislative work to be done on civil rights for American Americans, he continued his quest as he went to do more peaceful protests and marches in different cities in America. By 1963, where Martin Luther King Jr. was fully recognized for his peaceful protesting and inspiration and philosophical speeches, he spoke to a large crowd that was estimated to be a quarter of a million people at the Washington Monument (About Dr. King). At the event, which was called the “”March on Washington Dr. King gave his “”I Have A Dream speech which is his most famous speech and helped become well regarded as an effective leader that fought for social change. This speech, as well as all his work done in the Civil Rights Movement, helped him win a Nobel Peace Prize the following year in 1964.

In conclusion, Martin Luther King Jr.’s work helped bring social justice to the African American community. He paved a way so that millions of African Americans could live their lives equally to that of a white man. Although Dr. King’s assassination created a halt in the work he still wanted to do, he was able to unite an American society that was filled with racism and bigotry. He will be remembered as one of the greatest historical and religious figures in history.

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Martin Luther King Jr. A Historical and Religious Figure. (2020, Feb 12). Retrieved from