A quick review of the current headlines of America’s newspapers, blogs and chat rooms speaks volumes about the advances that African-Americans have made in the quest to gain equality in a nation that proclaims “liberty and justice for all”, but has sadly fallen short of delivering that promise to minorities in decades past. This, of course, brings to mind the struggle to end racial discrimination, a struggle that owes an endless gratitude to Martin Luther King, Jr, a leader of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
Sadly, King lost his life to an assassin’s bullet; ironically, this research will prove that Martin Luther King, Jr. ’s fight and dedication to peace and dictated the way in which he tried to end racial discrimination, and he never used force to reach his end result. Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr? If it is possible to fully understand the mindset of Martin Luther King, Jr. , his mission and methods, it is important to likewise gain a better understanding of who he was as not only a social advocate but also as a human being.
A simple quote from the last speech that King ever gave, prior to his tragic murder so early in life, speaks a great deal about his philosophy and faith: “I just want to do God’s will, and he has allowed me to go up to the mountain” (Dyson, 2000, p. 2) In saying this, what King was trying to convey was that he was not motivated by fame, wealth or personal recognition, but rather that he was motivated by what is right, and that he had been given the privilege of using his wisdom and popularity to gain equality for all Americans, regardless of their race.
When looking back on the writings and speeches of King, it becomes apparent that he truly advocated non-violent actions to achieve his goals and realize his dream, but he also realized that it would be necessary for blood to shed, probably his most of all, for the dream to come to life. In fairness, it would neither be fair nor correct to depict Martin Luther King, Jr.
as a saint or a supernatural figure, no matter how impressive his actions in his life and the sacrificial nature of his death. In its purest sense, King’s message held that it is legally, morally and philosophically the right thing for everyone to have equal rights, regardless of their race. What he intended was for everyone to have the opportunity to prove their abilities, advance based their hard work and initiative and improve their standard of living as much as anyone else.
However, it would seem that King has created a monster of sorts, as his message has been perverted for selfish purposes over the years to indicate that minorities should be given preference because of prior deprivations and disadvantages, something which creates a sizeable level of friction between races in America to the present day. Additionally, it has been alleged by King’s critics that he resorted to grandstanding as a means of gaining attention for his cause (Greenblatt, 2008).
Suffice it to say that King, in the final analysis was not a superhero, nor was he all style and no substance. In actuality, he was an intelligent, motivated individual who was driven by zeal to make a difference in the world, eradicate wrongs that he observed in that world, and try to generate harmony for minorities and non-minorities through the promotion of peace between the two groups.
Simply put, King was human, but doing everything humanly possible to rise above the limitations of what he saw as an unjust world. Turning Imprisonment into Freedom Perhaps one of the clearest statements of King’s support of non-violent action in order to eradicate injustice and discrimination anywhere that it existed in the United States can be found in his writing that would become known as “Letter from Birmingham Jail”.
The “letter” came into existence when King was arrested as a result of his protesting activities in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, which as that time and place was believed by many to be the most racially segregated and prejudiced city in the United States of America. Adding insult to injury, the clergy of Birmingham leveled the allegation that King and his groups of non-violent protesters who came to Birmingham were in fact outsiders who were essentially interfering with matters that they had no business being involved with in the first place.
Taking a certain level of offense at this accusation, King addressed his letter directly to the clergy of Birmingham who were making the accusations and managed to cleverly outline his strategies for achieving meaningful change without using violence, the precedent for doing so throughout Biblical texts and secular history accounts, and precisely what he and his many fellow advocates intended to realize in the end after the actions took place (Abcarius & Klotz, 2007). Additionally, some other facets of the letter deserve recognition.
King uses terms like “loyalty” and “sacred values” to make the argument that the battle to end discrimination is something that is not only of the mind of all people, but also a matter of the heart. Further, he makes the assertion that the level of difficulties that existed in Birmingham made involvement by outsiders not only appropriate, but also necessary. Thus, it can be fairly argued that King was ready, willing and able to selflessly embark on a crusade of freedom, wherever that crusade happened to take him. King’s Death Gave Added Life to His Dream
As this research was introduced, the point was made that ironically, a non-violent activist like Martin Luther King, Jr. had his life prematurely snuffed out by a violent act on the part of an individual whose sole motivation seemed to be violence in order to reach his goal (Kukathas, 2008). Adding to the irony of King’s murder is that his assassin intended for the murder to also kill King’s dream of equality for all, but in the final analysis, the exact opposite took place. As tragic as his death was, it seemed to speak a million words, telling everyone that racial hatred is not only wrong, but could also be fatal.
When faced with life and death, many soon realized that a better dialogue on the issue of race was necessary. While the road to equality would be slow, it was aided by the sacrifice made by Martin Luther King, Jr. upon his death. King in Context and Conclusion As has been seen in this research, Martin Luther King, Jr. was more motivated than perfect, active than violent. In fact, the point has been made by examining pivotal writings of King and his historic record of activism that he made the progress that he did without ever raising a violent hand to anyone.
Therefore, in conclusion, what is seen in King is a non-violent catalyst for change in a world that sadly, was too violent to allow him to continue living in it. While those who would come after him would attempt to twist his words for their own benefit and depict King as something that he was not, over the course of history, it has been proven that the quality of what he offered to the world has withstood the test of time and when it is revitalized and used as he designed it, can continue to be successful in the modern United States of America. Hopefully, it will continue to do so as time moves forward.
Works Cited Abcarias, R. & Klotz, M. (Eds) (2007). Literature: The Human Experience of Reading and Writing. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press. Dyson, M. E. (Ed) (2000). The True Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: The Free Press Greenblatt, A. (2008). The Legacy of Disadvantage in the United States Kukathas, U (Ed) (2008). Race and Ethnicity. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press