Martin Luther King
Summarizing the Problem of Martin Luther Kings fight for African-Americans Rights
America is sometimes compared to a melting pot, where people of different ethnic origin and race can equally pursue their political, cultural and economic purposes. The USA is the pioneer of the democratic state regulations based on economic and market principles. American dream is the national symbol of success and opportunity available to everyone. Nevertheless, it should be noted that white people have always had a privileged position, which turns out to be historically stipulated. What are the challenges and reality of American multinational co-existence? Do people of different color of skin and religion experience equal rights and freedoms? Where are the roots of the present day white and non-white contradiction?
Martin Luther King led the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950th 60th and became a social activist, who managed to change the self-esteem of African-Americans. He made them fight for their real rights and freedoms. King was murdered by James Ray, a radical racist, in 1968.
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Martin Luther King drew the public attention to the problem of persistent and social discrimination against people of color. He saw a violation of basic human rights and fought for the practical application of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution to all American citizens. Martin Luther King was a representative of a great number of black people, who became ready to claim their rights.
The problem of segregation originates from a historically stipulated mentality of black people in America. They had been slaves and had grown up as servants of white people for centuries before the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement of the last century, which made black people reconsider their social and public roles. This project researches the roots of segregation, its consequences and culminates into an analysis of the role of Martin Luther King in the establishment and practical fulfillment of the rights of African-Americans in their fight against racial discrimination by methods of non-violent resistance.
To achieve my goal, I have read many scholar books and articles. The book by William Julius Wilson helped me in appreciation of main historical facts in regard to African-American equality, cherished by Martin Luther King. In Kings book A Testament of hope, I have found many ideological and philosophical aspects of Kings vision of the problem of segregation. The problem of African-American economic abuse remains urgent. Black people traditionally had another starting point at the beginning of the Gilded Age.
Listening to Martin Luther Kings speech I have a dream helped me in understanding of his basic ideological principles and special rhetoric skills. The conducted research has greatly contributed to the understanding of Martin Luther Kings basic principles and values.
A book of David Firestone has summarized my understanding of Kings philosophy and fight principles.
Summary and Analysis of Firestone, David. A Civil Rights Group Suspends, Then Reinstates, Its President.
Only half a century ago, an everyday American communication was saturated with non-proclaimed segregation. Places for black and white people were separated in public establishments, restaurants, cafes, and even toilets. White children did not go to the same schools with black ones. Black people were born and brought up with the mentality of slaves. White people contributed to that secondary self-perception in the world. Martin Luther King tried to change the slave mentality of African-Americans and to show them the way in which they could win in that fair fight.
Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement managed to change a lot in common approaches to the rights of white and non-white people. Exclusion and segregation on a racial basis were legally forbidden and criticized. African-American citizens began attending the same educational institutions like white people and received an opportunity to claim their career promotion. However, the starting point for white and non-white people was different. After some centuries of formal and informal exploitation, black people still had the mentality of servants. They had to start building their households, while white people had to improve theirs. At first the situation showed a progress. However, with the start of the New Gilded Age, the process got into a phase of stagnation. Black people have been still experiencing silent and non-official abuse, as the living and working conditions of these people needed significant changes and development.
While political officials proclaim that segregation and exclusion are prohibited, they do not guarantee rehabilitation of African-Americans in a new high-tech environment. A natural reaction of traditionally abused people would be cultural shock and frustration. Politicians offer social protection and monetary welfare. However, they do not look for natural motives for self-development and personal growth of those people.
The problem of racial discrimination, raised by Martin Luther King, remains urgent as black people traditionally tend to exclusion and creation of their own areas within cities and towns. Segregation has deep historical roots. Even after the abolition of slavery African-Americans were discriminated and abused when experiencing their rights and newly acquired freedoms. A person of color could not work for white employers under contract and get an appropriate wage for his/her work. There were special black courts, which involved only non-color plaintiffs. The Black Codes implied that freedmen were obliged to work for the Whites under contract if they were not able to find employment by themselves. Children of vagrants or other destitute parents were another source of free labor for former slave owners. The institution of apprenticeship was established. The Black Codes did not allow people of color to sell any products of their labor or to move into another state without special permission, which evidenced good behavior.
Martin Luther King made people reconsider the achievements of the abolition of slavery and outcomes of the Civil War of the nineteenth century. The aim of the abolition of slavery was to give non-white people equal possibilities when exercising citizenship and freedoms. The purpose was achieved only partially because the efforts to restrict the opportunities for color people were resumed in Jim Crow laws in the years after the Reconstruction. The Black Codes were the sprouts of racial segregation, which thrived throughout the first part of the twentieth century in the USA.
Martin Luther Kings calling to freedom and to non-violent resistance in the fight for rights and freedoms remains urgent in modern conditions of an increasing global tension.
Research Process and Sources of Insight
Since the struggle of African Americans progressed from desegregation protests to mass movements acquiring political and economic benefits in the South and North, Kings active engagement was limited to some highly publicized campaigns. As the decisive events, St. Augustine and Birmingham campaigns secured public support for the passage of civil rights legislation. These campaigns helped to enact important legislation, in particular, the Civil Rights Acts and Voting Rights Act brought about in the 1960s (King 56). American civil rights activists continued to conduct their nonviolent protests, legal actions, and civil disobedience pursuing equality for all citizens.
Martin Luther King was deservedly proclaimed a national icon of American progressivism. Continuous civil rights agitation undoubtedly produced a strong effect on the societys point of view. From the late 1965 to 1967, Martin Luther King promoted the Civil Rights Movement in large American cities, including Los Angeles and Chicago. However, he faced public challenges and growing criticism from leaders of the black youth. Kings non-violent approach, patience, and treatment of white middle-class alienated the majority of black activists. Militants viewed Kings methods as late and weak.
The sharp-tongued black urban youth considered the leaders manner as non-effective and irresponsibly passive. Martin Luther King started to make a connection between poverty and discrimination in order to respond to criticism. King expanded his civil rights struggle to the Vietnam War. He harshly criticized the foreign policy of the United States and opposed the war. Moreover, King questioned the entire capitalistic system that, in reality, created poverty and inequality. He considered the countrys involvement and governments conduct of the Vietnam War as politically untenable and discriminatory. King strove to broaden his base by establishing a multi-race union to resolve economic and unemployment issues of all disadvantaged citizens.
Reading of A Testament of Hope, written in 1969 and published posthumously, contributed to the understanding of Kings principles of fight. He insisted that the revolution of black people had to be more than an ordinary civil rights movement. It forced the United States to overcome poverty, racism, materialism, and militarism. Martin Luther King undoubtedly went down in history. Moreover, Kings theological studies, strong bond with the Baptist church, creative experiences in his hometown, and various models of political and religious leadership applied in the social justice movement eventually transformed him.
Kings philosophy originates from the non-violent idea of Mahatma Gandhi, which states that non-violence does not mean passive retrieval and submission. It is a conscious refusal from the Evil, resistance to its challenges. The most important goal of human existence is the servitude to the Truth, which, in Gandhi philosophy, is associated with the ultimate God-realization. Moral struggle for better changes in oneself is one of the core points of Gandhi`s ideology. Self-sacrifice is another method of fighting against the imperfections and the Evil of the world. The Hindu leader taught that the body is something to be killed or broken, but the spirit is what revives in the universe. Gandhi adhered to a universal concept of God and believed that God unites people, but not separates. So did Martin Luther King.
Listening to the original speech of Martin Luther King I Have a Dream delivered in 1963 made me perceive the idea of equality in a new light. Enriching metaphors and applying exceptional techniques, Martin Luther King set the tone for the inspirational and unforgettable oratory in the twentieth century. The leaders speeches stimulated people of all races to come together and peacefully manage injustice and prejudice in America. The oration I Have a Dream reflects the leaders struggle that he carried on to achieve equal human rights for black people.
Conclusions and Personal Response
Many people believe that Kings dream was partially fulfilled at the last elections when an African-American was chosen as US President for the first time. The film, the Butler, shows the evolution of political thought as to the question of equality and African Americans` rights. The film is about the path of black men to the White House.
The movie shows the life of black people a century later after the proclamation of their freedom and equal rights. The humble and devoted servitude of black people to white people is an example of a strong social position and tolerance. Black people chose the principles of non-violent resistance in the fight for their freedoms, and America has proved its ability to be flexible and to avoid racial discrimination. The election and the successful political ruling of Barak Obama confirm the attitude change and equal political opportunities for both black and white people nowadays.
Life and social activism of Martin Luther King essentially influenced my understanding of the race relations in the United States. Forty-six years have already passed after King`s assassination. However, Americans still commemorate him as a legendary humanitarian, social activist, and a preacher of that time. Kings activity and struggle have been honored with a remarkable memorial in the nation`s capital. Martin Luther King`s life was observed as a controversial one. In the 1970s, under the Act of Freedom of Information, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that Martin Luther King was under the administrations surveillance. It is assumed that King was involved in adulterous relationships and communistic activities. In general, the leader was fallible and limited in his actions and control over the social movements. However, King was a visionary leader, who believed that equality and social justice could be attained through nonviolent means. Over the next decades, a comprehensive archival investigation represented a balanced assessment of Martin Luther King as a complex historical figure.
Modern American Government has improved in the question of tolerance to African-Americans since the days of Martin Luther King. Nowadays, every American citizen is aware that his or her rights are guaranteed by the state while the highly developed institution of justice encourages fighting for ones rights in court. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and the 1960s managed to change a lot in common approaches to the rights of white and non-white people. Exclusion and segregation on a racial basis were legally forbidden and criticized. However, the starting point for white and non-white people was different. After the centuries of formal and informal exploitation, black people still had the mentality of servants. They had to start building their households while white people had to improve theirs.
Modern people have considerably advanced in questions of humanity. The institution of law provides all the citizens with equal freedoms and rights in pursuit of justice and happiness. These are fundamental principles of the Constitution of the USA and Constitutions of many other countries in the world. However, people tend to believe in the need to struggle for their rights. Resistance is commonly associated with violence. Philosophers and ideological leaders try to explain what makes people kill each other and what causes mass massacres and wars. Philosophers, scientists and ordinary people look for explanation and reason for the uncontrolled ferocity and cruelty which a crazy crowd shows in armed riots.
The principles and philosophy of Martin Luther King, based on Gandhis ideology of non-violent resistance, showed the popularity and strength of such a form of fight. It helps to achieve results with fewer victims and bloody riots. Though both leaders were assassinated, their life and personal example remain instructive and useful for millions of people all over the world. Martin Luther King`s life and personal example teach people to remain tolerant to other people and their differences and avoid violence and abuse in relation to other people. Pluralism and freedom help people enjoy the differences of others and collaborate for the common good.