Martin Luther King Essay Sample
Martin Luther King Jr. was a celebrated priest and human rights activist. His father had been a priest too, and, notably, King Jr. had initially been reluctant to follow in his father footsteps, but consequently changed his mind, which eventually proved to be an excellent decision. His priesthood led him to human rights activism, which made him one of the most prominent and celebrated people of the entire 20th century. Focused on the emancipation of black people, his activities brought forth the drastic changes to the lives of the African American community in particular and the American nation as a whole. The most notable results of his deeds were the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. These, however, are only a couple of the most illustrative manifestations of his strong mindset fixated on racial and social equality. All his deeds resulted from his dream of all people getting equally appropriate treatment, regardless of their ethnic or religious background, and his conviction that these ideals can be achieved in a peaceful and non-violent way.
Of course, the African American emancipation movement was massive, and Martin Luther King was by far not the only prominent leader of this movement. There were quite a number of people who devoted their lives – both figuratively and literally – to the cause of equal rights for the black population. However, his name pops up most often when we talk about the events that led to the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This famous legislation has formally ended the segregation of the African American population. The significance of this Act lies in the fact that now African Americans were finally granted the legal framework to get a proper education, have proper careers, and live proper lives in general.
The struggle that led to the Civil Rights Act, however, was not an easy or instant one. It began when Martin Luther King came to Montgomery, Alabama, one time. There, he could witness quite an illustrative example of how differently some people were treated based on their race. The notorious Jim Crow laws, for instance, were dictating that the first four rows of any public bus were reserved exclusively for white people, while black people could only take places in the back rows. Moreover, if the bus happened to be full, a black person sitting in a back row would be legally obliged to stand up and free his or her seat for the white passenger. Barbaric as it seems today, these laws did indeed exist and were enforced by the bus drivers who themselves were exclusively white, according to the same Jim Crow laws. As if it were not enough, black passengers would also have to endure all sorts of verbal abuse from the white drivers, the “N” word being arguably one of the mildest. Such egregious instances of discrimination and violation are impossible to imagine today, but there and then they were considered the natural order of things and nothing out of the ordinary.
Not long after King had arrived in Montgomery, a particular incident took place there. A black woman named Rosa Parks kept sitting after a white man boarded the bus and demanded that she free the seat for him. As we know, such a refusal was illegal at the time and place, so, naturally, Parks was arrested. This may have been not the first similar incident, but this was the first one to get so much public attention, among other things, thanks to King’s efforts. After this incident, the Montgomery Improvement Association and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) began the campaign of boycotting the public transportation system, and Martin Luther King took on the role of the campaign’s spokesman. The initial outcomes of the boycott campaign were contrary to the ones expected – not only did Jim Crow laws persist, but King himself, being the public face of the campaign, received numerous threats, got himself arrested, and even survived an attempt on his life when his house was bombed. Nevertheless, King was beyond giving up and stood his ground until December 1956. This was when the desired outcome had finally been achieved, and the court ruled Jim Crow segregation laws to be non-constitutional. Ending segregation in public transportation may seem like a relatively small victory, but it proved that persistent non-violent struggle can indeed be effective. This served as a significant motivation booster for further struggle.
Another significant step for the emancipation of African Americans that was possible thanks to Martin Luther King was the Brown v. Board of Education and Plessy v. Ferguson court case. The education system of the time was functioning according to the “separate but equal” doctrine. It suggested that both black and white children should be taught by the same programs but in different schools. In reality, it led to black children getting a lower quality education because only the less skilled and professional teachers who could not get employed at white school would go on to work at black schools. While the root cause of the problem was not in the doctrine itself but rather in the minds of the teachers, Martin Luther King deemed that integrated studying was the effective solution. He stated that segregated studying was unconstitutional because it was in direct violation of the 14th Amendment. On the 17th of May 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Martin Luther King’s aspirations and outlawed segregation at schools. Now, there was no legal basis to give black children worse public education than their white peers could enjoy.
Finally, in 1965, Martin Luther King set his mind on what he considered the biggest problem of the African American population at the time – their inability to take part in the election process. Since we are a democracy, only the people who elect the authorities and whom these authorities represent have a say about how the country, as well as particular localities, should be governed. So, King realized that the reason why there were so many discrimination laws was that the numerous African American society was not represented on the authorities that pass these laws. Given this, he rightfully deemed that instead of addressing each discrimination law separately, it should be more effective to make the black society get represented in the governing authorities, so that their voices could be heard in the governing process. To achieve this, he gathered his famous Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1965, where it was decided to march on Montgomery to attract the public attention to their cause. The march took three days and was led by Martin Luther King himself. The effort was successful, and the Voting Rights Act was passed later that year. Finally, the African Americans got the chance to elect and to be elected, so that they could get appropriate representation in the governing authorities of all levels.
Even though, as we know, slavery was outlawed back in the 19th century as the most significant result of the Civil War, black people still could not enjoy the full amount of their constitutional rights across the country. It took an enormous effort from numerous inspired individuals like Martin Luther King to make the true emancipation of the African American Population real. Today, we see him as a hero, and the general public, except for a few marginal individuals, agrees that he played an invaluable role in building the American society into what it was meant to be all along. However, it was not always the case. In his time, King's activity was largely controversial, and while some people treated it with utter admiration and support, the equal amount of people sincerely hated and resisted it. Nevertheless, he never abandoned his cause and always remained loyal to his dream of a society with equal right and opportunities for people of all races, and he put his life to the cause of enforcing these ideals.