Martin Luther King Jr. S Impact on Today
Martin Luther King Jr. lived during a time of great oppression in the United States. People were oppressed for many reasons including, race, gender, class, and religion. King, being an African American, was far too familiar with this oppression, and he decided to take a stand.
He took his first steps towards becoming an activist when he wrote a letter to the editor of the Atlanta Constitution. In the letter, he expressed that African Americans were entitled to the same rights and opportunities as any other American citizen. King began to use his education, faith, and beliefs to build up his role in the civil rights movement.
In 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give her seat to a white person on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Montgomery was a city that was well known for its strict segregation in public places. When King heard about this, he met with other activists and planned a city-wide protest known as the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This boycott lasted 381 days, and finally ended on December 20, 1956.During this boycott, King was harassed by people who didn’t want the changes he was fighting for. However, the boycott was a success. The US supreme court ruled that racial segregation in transportation was unconstitutional. His role in the boycott made King one of the best-known activists in the civil rights movement.
In 1957, King helped found, and became president of, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, or the SCLC. The SCLC conducted nonviolent protests across the southern United States to promote civil rights reform.
In 1963, King led a large, nonviolent campaign aimed at Birmingham, Alabama. At that time, Birmingham was considered the most segregated city in America. During this time, King was arrested for his participation in the protests, and wrote his, now famous, Letter From a Birmingham Jail.
Later that year, King was one of the main forces behind the March for Jobs and Freedom, also known as, The March on Washington. In August, 1963, over 250,000 people gathered at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to demand justice and equality for all people. It was here that King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. This speech inspired the nation.
King became the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was 35 at the time. He promised to use the prize money, over fifty-four thousand dollars, to continue the important work of the civil rights movement. This was also the year that congress passed the Civil Rights Act, which made it illegal to discriminate against people because of their race. The Jim Crow Laws, which promoted the discrimination and segregation of African Americans, were now against federal law.
In 1965, King led a march to urge President Lyndon B. Johnson, and his administration, to pass a law protecting the rights of African American voters. Later that year, the Voting Rights Act was passed. This eliminated the remaining barriers for African American voters. Prior to the passing of this act, there were still areas where African Americans didn’t have the right to vote.
Over the next three years, King’s focus shifted to economic injustice and international peace. He spoke strongly against the Vietnam War. His opposition to the war caused him to lose support from many union leaders, publishers, and the president.
In 1968, King and the SCLC organized the Poor People’s Campaign. The goal of this campaign was to assemble a multi-racial group of poor Americans to advocate for economic change. That same year, King was shot while he was standing on the balcony of his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee. He was pronounced dead at St. Joseph’s Hospital, and was later buried in Atlanta, Georgia.
King changed the course of American history. He worked hard to make sure that all people had equal opportunities, and could live without the fear of violence and discrimination. Today, we can use King’s life as a lesson for how to move forward, and continue his work. There is still oppression taking place in our world today. Like King, we all need to stand up for what is right, and fight hard for justice and equality. Everyone deserves to live a life free from oppression and discrimination. If we all work hard, we can someday live in a world where everyone is treated equally. That is the world that King fought for, and that is the world we need to continue to fight for.