Countless individuals have been leaders for racial justice throughout history. Some are well known and some will never be known. The individuals here are neither the most important nor the best known; they are simply some representative figures that we have chosen in hopes that their stories may inspire others. Most of the individuals listed here were active in the United States, but the movement against racism is world-wide. There were many leaders in the civil rights struggle, but Martin Luther King was more than just the most conspicuous and eloquent among them.
The present paper is an attempt to look into the social struggle backed by intense racial discrimination. The paper will also try to understand the role and contribution of great leaders towards the eradication and liberation of racial inequality. This paper is an attempt to analyze the role of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
and his struggle for a more liberal society specifically for the black community.
Time and again great people have taken birth on planet to safeguard human lives from devastation, both, natural and manmade. Many social evils have taken a heavy toll and have cost human lives. The most afflicting was untouchability practiced in India. In the similar time frame the world saw slavery and the racial tensions between the black and the whites. A few leaders that emerged as an icon in history and contributed in the eradication of racism are: Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, John F Kennedy, Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar, Martin Luther King Jr.,Mother Teresa and a few more to name. Most of the individuals listed here were active in the United States, but the movement against racism is world-wide. What would the Civil Rights Movement be without the brave men and women who fought for equal rights? These leaders dedicated their lives to ending slavery, segregation, and unfair treatment. One such person who rose as a national icon in the history of modern American liberalism, an African American civil rights leader and is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience is “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”
For his contribution in the context of non-violence struggle he was titled as the ‘American Gandhi’. Martin Luther King previously known as Michael Luther was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in the year of 1929. He was brought up in a religious home, his father was a pastor. Martin followed in his dad’s footsteps and was ordained and became a minister of a Baptist church in the city Montgomery, Alabama. Montgomery was a place of great racism in the South. Dr. King saw this racism and felt something needed to be done. As for him being the newly elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA).
He felt he needed to do something, so in 1955, December 1, when Rosa Parks didn’t give up her seat on the bus for a white passenger and was arrested. Martin made the decision to organize a boycott against the bus transportation. This is where the great leadership that Martin Luther King Jr. started. Although King was only thirty-nine at the time of his death, his life was remarkable for the ways it reflected and inspired so many of the twentieth century’s major intellectual, cultural, and political developments. This paper will try to elaborate on, King, as a personality, the influence of Gandhi’s ideologies on his life, his achievements as an Orator by analyzing few of the many speeches delivered by him and How effective he was as a leader?
A lot of literature has already been written on this subject. Much of it has been dismissed considering the fact that no appropriate evidences were collected. (However, the present paper is an attempt to understand, evaluate and analyze the contribution made by Dr. Martin Luther King to eradicate the evils of racial inequality. Great leaders have discussed and debated their views in symposia held from time to time, many of which have also appeared in several publications. Over the last thirty years, considerable volume of literature has grown on the subject of racial inequality and some of the salient opinions expressed by various leaders are presented.
Primary and Secondary sources will be used during this research. Books, articles in journals and certain websites will be used as secondary sources. This research will be predominantly ‘narrative’ and ‘analytical’ in nature. This paper is also a modest attempt to fill in the gap of what has already been written and the global understanding of this issue. Primary Sources have been collected from: http://www.thekingcenter.org/archive/theme/4758
This discussion includes three main aspects of King’s personality i.e. King as a Leader, King As an orator and his famous I have a dream speech and the influence of Gandhi’s ideologies on King’s life.
‘KING AS A LEADER’
What defines an excellent leader? Is Leadership someone that can think creatively or can solve problems? Is a leader someone that knows what it takes to be a leader and to lead a group, or is it someone that sets goals for themselves and/or for the group. One could ponder these questions for a very long time but there is no true definition for leader or leadership. But you can look at people and decide if they are a good leader, by what outcomes they arrive at, the way they inspire people, and the qualities that they poses. All of these aspects are in one of the greatest leaders of all times and that would be, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This man is one to be admired and sought to be like. The leadership that King shows is, not to be afraid of anything, to stand up for your people, to stand up for the right of your people, and lastly to fight with nonviolence for your people. King took action against segregation from that day, to his death. By taking action I mean that he formed many organizations one of which was Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which allowed him to pursue other civil rights activities.
This grew to be nationwide and allowed Martin L. King to help his people through his leadership skills. He set goals for himself and for his people. The goals he set for himself was that” I will not rest until all black men, women, children are free of segregation”. Which meant he would not rest until all his people were free and would do anything to help them have their freedom? The goals he set for his people were of independence, desegregation, and to have their freedom. By setting these goals it shows that King is a great leader. I feel you have to set goals to accomplish your task. By him setting these goals everyone is on the same track, and the people are looking to achieve the same goals and dreams. Which he showed his dreams when he gave the speech at Washington “The I Have a Dream” speech. Martin Luther King shows great leadership by his demonstrations of non-violence acts all of his organizations all the speeches he gave and all the letters he wrote. Through this it shows he is a man of intelligence, determination, also integrity.
I say intelligence because in his demonstrations, if he would have fought back he and many others would have been killed or seriously injured and it would be his fault and he would have let his people down. So by using his brain he was able to show that the use of violence would result in violence. Not the fact that the demonstration was about the Civil Rights and the desegregation of Blacks. He also showed his intelligence by the letters and the speeches he wrote. The one that was the most inspirational was the “I Have a Dream” speech which is elaborated in the later part of this discussion. This speech touched so many people. It changed the way many people thought about blacks. With the words of Martin Luther King he helped to get desegregation in the Southern states of Mississippi, Alabama, Carolina, Georgia etc just throw his leadership skills and his motivational words that ring till this day. King showed his determination through getting thrown in jail, being hit with sticks, fists, and being called a “Niger”.
All of which hurt him but he would not let that stop him from getting his people free using non-violence and He did not want to show he was scared of the white community he wanted to show his people no fear. So he faced these obstacles head on and didn’t back down. He showed his dedication and determination to achieve his goals and the goals of his people and to show no fear, and to make his people feel no fear in the white community. By this Blacks became unafraid of white and helped them get there desegregation. Martin showed his integrity by taking responsibility for his actions, shown by him going to jail and by him being beat up or even killed. This man inspires confidence in others because he can be trusted to do what he says he will do. King says he will fight until freedom rings that mean that he will fight till freedom rings, in which he did. He showed the most integrity when he was killed. He showed that he would give is life to have desegregation and to have his people have their freedom from all whites.
‘INFLUENCE OF GANDHI ON KING’S LIFE’
An event that played as an integral part of his life was his visit to India in 1959 as he increased his understanding of Gandhian ideas during his month-long visit sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee. With Coretta and MIA historian Lawrence D. Reddick in tow, King meet with many Indian leaders, including Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Writing after his return, King stated, “I left India more convinced than ever before that non-violent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom” Is it true that much of Martin Luther King’s success resulted from the passive resistance techniques proposed by Mahatma Gandhi? The answer is Yes, Both Gandhi and Martin Luther King used passive resistance to fight for social justice and equality but their individual use of it varies immensely. In the early 1900s, Gandhi inspired a successful nonviolence movement to end the British Raj in India. Gandhi strongly believed that nonviolence or Satyagraha was the most influential way to fight unjust laws and discrimination.
Following Gandhi’s movement, in the late 1950s and 1960s was a similar movement sparked by Martin Luther King, Jr. King mimicked Gandhi’s utilization of Gandhi’s nonviolence for the purpose of liberating the discriminated black community in America. The most potent difference between the two leaders was their cause for employing nonviolence and the unforgiving situations and opposers they fought. In Gandhi’s era, he was battling the minority, but brutal force of the British Empire, but King fought the racial injustice and inequality that plagued American society, lurking on every street corner. Both tasks are no easy feat, but time and time again, one sees the tactic of nonviolence defeating even the most noble militia. Although King’s use of nonviolence is very similar to Gandhi’s, there are a few critical differences in how Gandhi executed Satyagraha compared to Dr. King’s use of adopted nonviolence because of the difference in situations that they were faced with.
Since many of King’s tactics were based on Gandhi’s, the two influential leaders shared a very similar viewpoint on nonviolent resistance including the use of tactics such as civil disobedience and noncooperation. Both leaders used the powerful nonviolent force to fight social injustices of their time. Their methods for successfully utilizing nonviolence were civil disobedience and noncooperation. In April 1930, Gandhi successfully lead the Salt March from Sabarmati, and traveled over 240 miles to Dandi where thousands of Indians produced salt from their Ocean, defying the British salt monopoly.This act of civil disobedience was to combat the unjust law of British Salt taxes. Similarly, King lead civil disobedience demonstrations with lunch counter sit-ins where black students would try to fight the unjust laws of segregation by sitting at an all white lunch counter. Gandhi also used noncooperation to boycott British.
‘I HAVE A DREAM SPEECH’
King’s ability to focus national attention on orchestrated confrontations with racist authorities, combined with his oration at the 1963 March on Washington, made him the most influential African-American spokesperson of the first half of the 1960s. Martin Luther King showed different types of leadership through his preaching, his “I Have a Dream” speech, boycotts, his marches, and his death. It is a 17-minute public speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered on August 28, 1963, in which he called for racial equality and an end to discrimination. The speech, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, was a defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement.
Delivered to over 200,000 civil rights supporters, the speech was ranked the top American speech of the 20th century by a 1999 poll of scholars of public address. Dr. King had the power, the ability, and the capacity to transform those steps on the Lincoln Memorial into a monumental area that will forever be recognized. By speaking the way he did, he educated, he inspired, he informed not just the people there, but people throughout America and unborn generations.All of these demonstrations show that he is the greatest leader of all time. He changed America, he changed segregation, he changed the way people think of people. All of his great qualities came in handy for him to be this great leader. To be remembered as a great man and leader ever to live and die doing what he believed in, and what he thought was right.
‘KING AS AN ORTOR’
• He is famous for his wisdom and persuasive speeches against segregation of African Americans. He accomplished his success mostly through speeches, but also through his written essays. Although, his speeches were intense and filled with much persuasion, Martin had a way with words when he wrote too. • He analyzed statements and responded in an argumentative manner. He demonstrated this through persuasive statements, answering quotes from the community, and used a past leader as an example. • Martin Luther King had a way with words. He simply expressed himself in a manner that the people could understand. One way this was proposed, he used persuasive wording in order to demonstrate his particular feeling of that certain topic. Not only did Martin persuade the readers and or listeners with words of wisdom, but he also used quotes, good or bad, to argue against segregation and to explain why it was unjust.
• Martin’s main goal was to make the public aware of the problems it faces every day. His answers provide a continuous void of satisfaction to the readers naked eye, but filters those minds who’s thoughts were garbled with lies of the community. • Martin Luther King Jr. not only answered the community, but he used important men as examples. One of them being, the ever so famous, Adolf Hitler. • He displayed courage and wisdom in rare form. Only, to prove his worth as a U.S. citizen and his worth to his community. Martin Luther King Jr. truly was a magnificent and remarkable man. No matter what the people threw at him he had an answer for it. He used persuasive thoughts and words of wisdom in such a way that he will be remembered as one of the most dominating leaders of his time.
This brings us to a conclusion that King was a great leader and a also man that will never be forgotten. This is because of all the good things that he has done for America and the Black population. No one will ever forget this man because of his hard work, determination, loyalty to his people, is loyalty to his work, the trust people shared in him, how intelligent he was to make the right decision on his movements and speeches. Martin Luther King is a very inspiring individual, a man that will show you what is right and how it is going to be when all is over. He is the kind of man that will show you his dreams, and show you how he is feeling. But when it comes down to everything he is on top. He hits every aspect of a not good but great leader. Your forever Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Primary Source: http://www.thekingcenter.org/archive/theme/4758 Martin Luther King Jr.: www.wikipedia.com
Peter Ling’s examination on King’s leadership role during his campaign for peace and justice – http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/recent/martin_luther_king_01.shtml Martin Luther King Jr. and the Global Freedom Struggle – http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_martin_luther_king_jr_biography/ Comparative study (Gandhi and king): http://socyberty.com/history/comparing-and-contrasting-gandhi-and-king/#ixzz22p4VniYk Analysis of I have a dream speech, by By Stevie Edwards: http://www.presentationmagazine.com/analysis-of-martin-luther-kings-i-have-a-dream-speech-8059.htm Fight Against Racism: http://www.civilrightsmovement.co.uk/fight-against-racism.html Martin Luther King Jr. Historic site :http://www.nps.gov/malu/index.htm