Martin Luther King Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 9 July 2017

Martin Luther King

On the 27th of august 1963, the March on Washington took place; its main purpose was to raise awareness of jobs and treatment of African Americans during the 1960s in particular. The event was officially called ‘The march on Washington for jobs and freedom’, involved where the six biggest civil rights groups [1]. The march led 250,000 campaigners through the capital and to the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King (MLK) performed his iconic ‘I have a dream speech’. This quickly became one of the most iconic moments in history, particularly during the civil rights movement.

This reputation was helped by the march being the largest political rally in the history of the United States, further giving the march, and those speaking including king more influence on the treatment of black Americans for the rest of the twentieth century. In particular, Martin Luther King’s words energized the fight for equality. He was one of the most established freedom fighters during this time, looking for integration into a predominantly white driven American society. Furthermore he was helped by the work of his own group called the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) [2].

However, others accommodate the opinion that Kings short-term influence was minimal, and he in fact did nothing to help the treatment of African Americans twenty years after his speech at the march on Washington. I believe that the most compelling argument that can be made for the short-term influence of MLK is the passing of the civil rights bill of 1964. President L. B. Johnson himself proclaimed the importance of Martin Luther King’s march on Washington in bringing about the civil rights act of ’64.

When talking to MLK about his march and the civil rights bill, Johnson says, ‘’I think the greatest achievement in foreign policy – I said to a group yesterday – was the passing of the 1964 civil rights act. ’’ Johnson said this directly to MLK in order to make him recognise how much of an effect his march had upon changing employment law in the US. The civil rights bill of 1964 meant that employers were legally obligated to pick the best candidate for a job regardless of their colour, race or sex [3].

Before the bill was passed, black Americans found it increasingly hard to find employment due to employers discriminating them, causing sit ins and marches such as the one in Washington which made known the problems that they faced, to the world. This was one of the main reasons that the march on Washington took place, which shows on a political level, its major significance. The reliability of this source is very strong because it can be said that Johnson would have wanted to look sympathetic upon Black Americans in order to gain their support, and therefore would want to support their movements.

The support of African Americans would have been significant for the 1964 presidential elections taking place on November 3th, which he won with one of the largest landslide victories in American history [4]. An account from a black American called Mr Manley, who participated in the March, further cements the idea that King had a great significance in passing the civil rights bill. It reads, ‘’I believe it electrified the country…we felt a warm surge of pride when Dr King addressed the crowds.

’’ Although it does not mention the civil rights bill, it talks of the effect that Kings ‘I have a dream’ speech had on spurring the civil rights movement on, ultimately putting pressure on congress. The source talks of electrifying the country, showing how there was almost an immediate significance of Kings Speech in the march on Washington, as does the quote from L. B. Johnson. This would have helped racial discrimination overall by effecting even those that were not Black Americans, which would have also played a big part in reducing overall racial discrimination due to that fact the majority of the American population where white.

So by getting them to sympathise with the cause, more relevant changes such as the civil rights bill would have been made, proving how after the march on Washington, Kings short term significance was overwhelmingly obvious. Another way in which King short-term significance can be seen, is the way that he changed attitudes of people and organizations around America, particularly in Chicago with the Chicago real estate board. After a march in Chicago about the estate board opposing housing laws, they eventually changed their stance.

An account from a Chicago tribune in November 1966 reads, ‘’the march led to an accord that year between the protesters and the Chicago real estate board. The board agreed to end its opposition to open-housing laws in exchange to an end in the demonstrations. ’’ The short term significance of the march on Washington can be seen here through the similar ways in which King and his march of 700 people carried out their protest [5]. They achieved the result that they ultimately where aiming for just as they did in Washington which demonstrates the effect that King had on changing rules around the north of America as well as the south.

This source is reliable as it is stating facts of the event. It talks of how a once segregated organization had now become desegregated as a result, and therefore holds a great way in helping to make the judgement on whether or not king had short-term significance, in this case it shows how he did to a great extent. In contrast to this view, it can be said that King didn’t have a great significance after the march on Washington because, despite the influences that he had on changing laws, there were still great economic difficulties for Black Americans.

Even King himself acknowledged that he had not changed anything about economic problems. Evidence can be found after the march in Watts, a friend of his called Bayard Rustin writes about what King said to him, ‘’you know Bayard, I worked hard to get these people the right to eat hamburgers, now I’ve got to do something… to help them get the money to buy it. ’’ This highlights the main problem that King himself could not overcome. His march on Washington won them equal rights in work and employment however it couldn’t do anything about the unequal pay that Black Americans received.

This became a big problem to him, as without money, what he had done for African Americans did not have as big a significance as it could have and meant that discrimination was still very much an issue. King further reiterated the problems that African Americans faced economically when he said, ‘’it is much easier to integrate lunch counters than it is to eradicate slums. It is much easier to guarantee the right to vote than it is to guarantee an annual income, minimal income and create jobs.

’’ This source strongly agrees with the first one, mainly because they are both from King but moreover it shows how he could not do anything to change the ongoing problem of a lack of money being earned by Black Americans. This therefore may show that his short term significance was minimal, although they still say how he has already made a change but just not one that helped them finically. The Georgia state representative from 1980 to the present day, Tyrone Brooks shared these concerns even decades after King identified them.

‘’we’ve won the battle for the right to vote, we’ve won the battle against segregation, we’ve won the battle to go to schools of our choice. But we have no won the battle in terms of money, the economic challenge’’ [6]. This only further implies that King couldn’t influence any economic change even later in the century. However, to say that because of this he didn’t have a great deal of significance is unfair due to the other greatly significant changes that King influenced such as the civil rights bill of 1964.

By pressuring congress to pass that bill, he allowed the focus to be changed onto economic problems, which would not have mattered if they did not have equality within the work place. Which on the other hand shows how MLK did have a great significance after the March. Despite the significance that King did have, it must be noted that he also failed to change the views of some more radically thinking Americans, which points to him having less of significance after his March. In an account from the Chicago tribune newspaper, they talk of the civil rights movement being futile.

‘’The ‘civil rights’ marchers are only hurting themselves and their cause. Chicago is retrogressing to the condition of a frontier town in early days, where shots are fired in the air and challenges to combat are hurled. ’’ It is clear to see that from what this source is saying; Kings Influence certainly did not have an effect on Chicago. However, in Chicago King achieved an accord between the Chicago real estate boards. They agreed to end their opposition of new housing laws, which calls in to question the reliability of this source largely in using it as evidence against the significance of King after the march on Washington.

The population of Chicago had intended to give King a hostile reception before even arrived. This point is backed up and relived in an article on the daily Kos. It reads, ‘’ When rumours circulated that Dr. King was to lead a march up the middle of the expressway these raging groups literally packed bags with rocks to hurl from overpasses or side streets on to the marchers’’[7]. Although this reiterates the point that King failed to make an immediate impact of those from Chicago, it also makes it clear that the previous source from the Chicago tribune is not reliable.

It is obvious from this that the mood in Chicago before King even entered was one of hostility, so it is no surprise the local newspaper did not support him either. This source is from an article written by someone that sympathises with king greatly as he goes onto say, ‘’If this was manhood, I was in no hurry to join them. ’’ This shows that he still had significance ad influence on views of people from the racist areas, as this person disagreed with those that opposed MLKs visit.

In conclusion, I believe that King had a great deal of short-term significance after his march on Washington. The most compelling bit of evidence that points to this view is the impact he had on passing the civil rights bill of 1964. The nationwide impact was made clear after his death, when in a speech Robert Kennedy said, ‘’ Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love’’[8].

This underlines the significance of King as such a well renowned figure was encouraging the country to follow in his footsteps, which could be said, is the reason why even more was achieved after his death. As well as the civil rights bill, he also changed the attitudes of some people, which in turn gave him, and the movement more support in order to go on and fight for equality. Therefore, it is impossible to say he had nothing but an incredible influential and significant legacy after the march, which paved the way for future movements and laws to be established.

[1]. http://www.infoplease. com/spot/marchonwashington. html [2]. http://www. britannica. com/biography/Martin-Luther-King-Jr [3]. http://www. archives. gov/education/lessons/civil-rights-act/ [4]. http://www. britannica. com/event/United-States-presidential-election-of-1964 [5]. http://www. chicagotribune. com/news/nationworld/politics/chi-chicagodays-martinlutherking-story-story. html [6]. https://www. doi. gov/pmb/eeo/AA-HM [7]. http://www. dailykos. com/story/2014/1/17/1270338/-Chicago-Summers-1966-67-Grown-Wary-and-Weary-of-Racism [8]. http://www. powerfulwords. info/speeches/John_F_Kennedy/8. htm

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