An in-depth look into Martin Luther King Jr.'s upbringing, accomplishments and posthumous legacy.
By: Chase Congleton
It goes without saying that Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most influential men in the past century. His work and discourse throughout his short lifetime created a message of unity despite racial differences.
While King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, which was delivered in 1963 during the March on Washington, remains to be one of his most studied works, it often overshadows the plethora of achievements and other noteworthy events that occurred during his life.
Throughout his life, King took part in numerous civil rights campaigns and quickly became a visible spokesperson and leader for the movement. He grew up in Atlanta and attended Booker T. Washington High School where he learned and excelled in public speaking. King later attended Morehouse College, which is a respected historically black college, and earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology.
His first major participation in activism was in 1955 when he was on the committee from the Birmingham African American community during the Montgomery bus boycott. The racial tension from the boycott resulted in King’s house getting bombed the following year. However, the situation catapulted him into the national figure as he is known today.
In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. took part in the Birmingham campaign where fellow activists participated in marches and nonviolent sit-ins to protest racial segregation. On April 12, King was arrested and put into the Birmingham jail where he wrote an open letter, now often referred to as, the “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” In the letter, King expresses his belief that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
For the remaining years of his life, King tirelessly worked to create change for African Americans. His advocacy and nonviolent demonstrations revolutionized the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.
In addition to his work with the Civil Rights Movement and his mission to create a better life for African Americans in the United States, King was also involved with Native American activism and supported the work the Native Americans Right Fund (NARF) was doing.
“Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race,” King said in his book “Why We Can’t Wait.” “Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shores, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society.”
King’s legacy began shortly after his untimely death with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. The Fair Housing Act, which was Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, was a tribute to King’s activism in his final years regarding residential discrimination.
King’s passing also helped inspire the Black Consciousness Movement and he became an icon for American progressiveness. His work inspired people in other countries to fight for civil rights in their country.
Throughout his activism, King consistently fought for the rights of all racial minorities and those oppressed by the eurocentric system in the United States that was built and supported by white supremacy.