Martin Luther King Jr and Racial Segregation

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Martin Luther King Jr was an American hero who used peace and love to fight against racial segregation. King is best known for his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and for being an inspirational leader in the Civil Rights movement (Teitelbaum). King lead thousands of people through many peaceful boycotts, marches and protests in the fight for equality (Martin).

King was born Janurary 15, 1929 to his mother Alberta King and his father Martin Luther King Sr. King grew up in Atlanta, Georgia where his encounters with racism inspired him to fight against racial hate (Teitelbaum).

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When King was six years old, his white best friend stopped playing with him because his dad didn’t want his white son to play with King because he was black. King was sad and angry, he became inspired though to want to make a change (Influences). Another time when King was 10 years old he and his father went to a store to buy shoes but they were forced to move to the Negro section. King’s father angrily left the store not buying anything at all. Seeing his father’s anger helped form King’s beliefs about equality (Teitelbaum). When King was 13 years old he and his high school teacher, on a bus ride home from a speech competition, were forced to give up their seats for the whites. King was angry because he hated being treated unfairly just because of his skin color (Teitelbaum).

The Jim Crow Laws were the segregation laws King fought against. Jim Crow :aws were laws that forced people of color and whites to use seperate public places. For example: people of color used seperate water fountains, bathrooms, schools, and were forced to use seperate restaurant, bus and store entrances than whites (Martin). These segregation laws were started around 1876 when many white people disliked the freedom blacks had after slavery ended. They feared that blacks could be seen as equals to them and so the Jim Crow Laws were started to ensure that whites and people of color were treated differently. Whites had more privileges and their schools and libraries were better because they got more money then blacks (Martin). King fought against these laws because he believed everyone was created equal and therefore are entitiled to the same privileges (Martin).

King found inspiration in his father, Mahatma Gandhi, anf Henry David Thoreau to peacefully protest for equality. His father inspired him because he was an activist and the head of the Nation Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Throughout King’s childhood his father was a big role modeal, he fought against the Jim Crow Laws, never rode the segregated buses and rode the ‘whitesonly’ elevators. He once told King “Remember son you don’t need to accept unfair treatment. Long ago I deaded I’ll never step of the road again to let white folks pass.” (Teiltaum). King was inspired by his father to speak against hate and not just accept it (Influences). King also found inspiration in Mahatma Gandhi. Using peace, Gandhi fought racism in South Africa and British rule in rule in India. Gandhi lead peaceful marches and boycotts and was sucessful in ending British rule before he was assasinated to death. Gandhi’s philosophy of using peace and nonviolence using love and peace to fight (Gandhi). Another person who inspired King was Henry David Thoreau inspired King to use a method called civil disobedience: a form of political protest where citizens refuse to obey certain laws or pay taxes. Thoreau’s philosophy of changing an evil system without violence inspired King throughout his protests (Henry).

King fought for equality and civil rights through many marches and protests. King founded the South Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) on January 10, 1957 and was president. The purpose of the (SCLC) was to support non-violent protests for civil rights. The SCLC was important in the history of the civil rights because the protest and campaigns it lead helped the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, the major victories in civil rights history (Martin).

The Montgomery Bus Boycott was one of many protests King lead. The purpose of the boycott was to protest against bus segregation. The boycott started on December 1, 1955 after Rosa Parks (42 year old black seamstress) refusal to give up her bus seat for the whites. King got an estimated 17,000 people to participate in the boycott, they walked, rode bikes, carpooled and black taxi drivers lowered their fares to 10 cents (which was the same price the buses would have charged). King’shome was bombed in retaliation of the boycott but he kept peacfully fighting. he refused to end boycott until the buses would desegregte (Features). The boycott lasted for 13 months but in the end it was a sucess, when the U.S. Supreme Court ended bus segregation saying it was unconstitutional (Anirudhi).

King organized the Birmingham Campaign in hopes to end discrimination in Birmingham, Alabama. At the time Birmingham was considered one of the most segregated places. The campaign included store boycotts, restaurants sit-ins and marches (Martin). During the protests King was arrested and while imprisoned wrote his famous ‘Letter from Birmingham City Jail’ in which he detailed why individuals have the right to disobey unjust laws (Teitelbaum). The letter is one of the most widely read and respected documents in civil rights history (Teitelbaum). The Birmingham Campaign was not as sucessful as King was hoping. He decided to get children involved hoping they’ll make more of a statement. King organized a march that included 1,000 children ages 6-18. The police began attacking them in hopes to stop the protests but the violence was captured on national news and people began to see the impact the segregation had. The parents of the children that participated in the marches were very angry at the violence towards their kids. The Birmingham Campaign was a sucess and the nervous store owners began integrating (Teilbaum).

The March on Washington D.C. took place on August 28, 1963. King lead 250,000 people on a march to the Lincoln Memorial hoping to call attention to the segregation people of color faced. It was here King gave his famous ‘I have a Dream’ speech in which he called for an end to racial discrimination (Editors). The march unified people of all races and the march sucessfully helped the passage of the Civil Rights Act signed by President Lyndon Johnson. The act ended Jim Crow Laws making them illegal (Teitelbaum).

King organized a series of marches to fight for people’s of color’s rights to vote. The marches began after President Lyndon Johnson’s refusal to send a Voting Rights Bill to congress. The first march began on January 18, 1965. King lead hundreds of marches to the Dallas Country Courthouse to peacefully demand coting rights. The march was not sucessful, when they reached the courthouse they were not allowed inside (Teitelbaum). King’s determination to earn voting rights promoted him to organie another march to be held on February 1. Meanwhile activists in Selma, Alabama were inspired by King to organize and hold their own voting rights protests. They marched from Selma to state capital in Montgomery planning to personally ask Governor Goerge Wallace for voting rights. Unfortunately they were not sucessful. The march had just begun when state troopers began attacking the protestors with sticks and tear gas. That day of violence is remembered as ‘Bloody Sunday’ (Teitelbaum). On March 9, 1965 in response to the violence King lead another march but that march also failed. The police were waiting barracading them to move forward and King not wanting another scene of violence asked the protestors to say a prayer before turning around (Teitelbaum). King continued his fight for Coting Rights with another march held on March 21, 1965. King lead 8,000 people on a 51-mile journey to Montgomery. By the time they reached Montgomery they had 25,000 people (Teitelbaum). King’s determination finally paid of and the march was sucessful. The march helped act prevented restrictions against blacks right to vote.

King begam ighting aginst poverty after seeing the impact the poverty was having on the poor neighborhoods. King fought against poverty and housing discrimination that prevented of color from buying or renting a house. King organized a massive rally for the movement. On July 10, 1966 King lead thousands of people on a 20 block march to the City Hall to demand an end to racial discrimination. When they reached the City Hall King nailed a paper with his demands to the front door of the City Hall. The demands include: “Additional low cost housing for struggling families, passage of 1966 Civil Rights Act, and an end to racial discrimination in schools.” (Teitelbaum). The movement was sucessful, helping the passage of the Civil Rights Act that ended race, color, religion and job dsicrimination.

King also protested against the Vietnam War. He saw the war was taking up to much money and resources that could have been spent helping people in poverty. He protested through speeches which was risky because it angered many people including President Lyndon Johnson and lost him the support and sympathy his previous protests received (Editors).

King started the Poor People’s Campaign in November 1967. The campaign was a massive protest and King planned to have the protestors march to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. nd have them stay in tents and shacks until their demands for a 30-billion dollar anti poverty package was met (Teitelbaum). The campaign included many people of all races that lived in poverty. The campaign was not sucessful though. The demands were never met and many still lived in poverty (Desmond).

Until the day he died King never stopped fighting for the causes he believed in (Desmond). In March 1968 pastor Reverend Lawson called King and asked him to come down to Memphis, Tenesee to speak to black sanitation workers. The workers were on strike for weeks because they were sent home early without pay due to bad weather but the whites were’nt. King traveled to Memphis and gave his ‘I’ve Been to the Mountaintop’ speech. He was asked to lead a march in supposrt of the workers. King was scheduled to lead the march on April 5, 1968 but was assasinated April 4, 1968 by James Earl Ray on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel (Teitelbaum).

We remember King as a brave hero that fought for generations of people’s civil rights and earned equality for all using love and peace. In 1983 President Ronald Raegan signed a bill establishing a federal holiday celebrated every 3rd Monday of January to remember King (Editors). On this holiday we remember what King fought for: civil rights and equality for all. We remember what he taught us: to not judge someone by the color of their skin and speak out against hate.

King’s legacy continues to affect us to this day. Without King’s determination to fight for equality Jim Crow Laws may still exist, people of color would not be able to vote, rent or buy a house. There is still much prejudice today but we can all do something about using what King taught us. Show love in the presence of hate, and never stay silent about things that matter (Martin).

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Martin Luther King Jr and Racial Segregation. (2021, Jul 01). Retrieved from