2. (a) Describe the role of Martin Luther King in gaining improvements for black citizens of the USA in the 1950s and 1960s.
To many people across the world, Martin Luther King represents the African American Civil Rights movement. Martin Luther King was an inspirational figure .He helped to gain improvements for black people in different aspects of their lives. This included integration of public transport and public areas, improvements in housing and getting the vote.
Martin Luther King was brought up Orthodox Baptist; this gave him many of the ideals that he used in his campaign for equality. King believed that he was not a natural leader but that God had chosen him to help black people and if necessary he would devote his life to the cause. Gandhi had a huge influence on him and gave him the idea that a non-violent protest can be used to gain the moral high ground. By not using violence it put the white people in a bad light and put pressure on the government to change the law. King also used Gandhi's example of removing black money form white businesses in order to economically cripple them. This was used in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and after eleven months the buses became desegregated. King often proved that he had the courage to not give in. King often received death threats and he experienced violence against himself and his family but he never gave in. One of his best qualities was his ability to give morale-boosting speeches. On many occasions he gave speeches in churches to help unite people and gain support for the civil rights movement. King managed to endear himself to the public by not hiding any of his weaknesses in public appearances this made him seem more likable and became someone to aspire to especially because he has a member of the black middle class who had received a Ph.D.
Kings first campaign was the 1955/56 Montgomery Bus Boycott that tackled racial segregation on public buses. Although he did not start the boycott he soon got involved and became the leader and headed the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). During this campaign he showed courage when he was arrested for the first time for going 5mph over the speed limit and his house got bombed. This showed that he was not going to give in and was prepared to make sacrifices to the cause. During the campaign he helped to organise car pool lifts and declared that no charge would be required and he helped to use the donated money to the best use. King also managed to get financial backing from a variety of sources including the NAACP. On several occasions he lead prayer meetings that involved giving speeches that boosted morale and helped to maintain the spiritual strength of those involved. The boycott showed that King was not going to back down as he refused to give an inch, as the authorities were not helping. The campaign was a success and one of the main reasons for this was that King used Gandhi as an example to withdraw money from the bus companies to put enough economic pressure on it to bring about change.