How much impact did Martin Luther King have in changing civil rights for black Americans?
The struggle of black people in America for freedom, justice, and self-definition stretches from the colonial and early nineteenth-century slaveholding era to the twenty-first century, but its intensity has varied from one period to the next. One of the most intense periods occurred in the 1950’s and 1960’s, when struggling was usually associated with the psychological and strategic use of nonviolence. Martin Luther King (MLK) was one of many Civil Rights leaders that bought publicity to the movement and issued nonviolence through marches and boycotts. Nevertheless, the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) would have occurred with or without Martin Luther King Jr., but without King, the CRM would not have had the same impact on society.
The first major campaign King was involved in was the Montgomery bus boycott, which occurred in the 1955-56. The bus boycott was started by the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) who instructed Rosa Park to refuse to give up her seat for a white person. NAACP constructed a legal court case against the segregation laws and the black people of Montgomery began to take direct action against bus companies by refusing to travel on the buses. This was affecting bus companies because more than half of their consumers were black people and so profit would be lost. King bought publicity to the bus boycott with his leadership and took the limelight away from the NAACP, who were behind the success of integration of buses. It was not the bus boycott alone that integrated buses, the NAACP taking litigation to the Supreme Court was vital because it changed desegregated buses. The bus boycott alone wouldn’t have changed segregation laws. According to Sanders, King was being credited for the integration of buses when it should have gone to the NAACP for starting the bus boycott and the activist, “it was a protest of the people… not a one-man show.” This portraying King in being a glory-seeker who was only interested in self-promoting and gaining fame because it was the NAACP, rather than King who bought success to Montgomery.