Daniela Njegovan Njegovan 1
1 November, 2006
Roughly 300 years ago, Africans were brought to the Americas,
where they were forced into slavery. Among all countries that had ever
practiced slavery, the United States had treated their slaves with the most
cruelty. African-Americans have struggled since, to end this racism in
America. Due to Martin Luther King Jr.’s beliefs, ambitions and
accomplishments, he became the most influential person of the 1960’s. He
sturdily pursued an ongoing battle for civil rights as his ambition was to
bond the gap among races.
Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta,
Georgia, at a time in American history when segregation and racial
discrimination were a part of everyday life for blacks (Deats, 2000, p.17).
Much of King Jr.’s childhood revolved around the church due to both of his
parents’ involvement in the church. This influenced him to become a
preacher and a social activist, specifically focusing on the southern black
culture. His main influences were music and religion, which he acquired
both from church and his community (Baldwin, 1991, p.17). While living in
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close proximity to the poor, King Jr learned how people in the community
developed a sense of competition and self ambition. In one of King’s
speeches he stated an eye-opening line” I saw economic injustice
firsthand.” (Baldwin, 1991, p.20) Many times he was told that as a
Christian, he was to respond to his enemy with love (Deats, 2000, p.18).
As King became more involved in fighting racism, he began to
detest the white population of America because of what most of them put
him and other African-Americans through. His father disagreed with this
attitude, and always told him “never stoop so low as to let anybody make
you hate” (Deats, 2000, p.18). Mahatma Gandhi, the great leader of India,
was also King Jr.’s mentor. King Jr. could relate to Gandhi with
significance as he too, led his people to independence. Gandhi also
believed in nonviolence, which helped him win the struggle when India was
allowed its freedom from the British in 1947 (Jakoubek, n.d., p.35).
King corresponds to “the triple evils” as problems including
economic exploitation, racism and war. He insisted; that when combined,
these problems result in America’s downfall. He once said at a convention,
“We must go from this convention and say, ‘America, you must be born
again…your whole structure must be changed.” (Harding, 1996, p.63) King
foresaw a country in which one’s political and social rights wouldn’t be
determined based on race and a class. During one of his last sermons he
I want you to first be in love. I want you to be first in moral
excellence. I want you to be first in generosity. If you want to be important,
wonderful. If you want to be great, wonderful. But recognize that he who is
greatest among you shall be your servant. (The Speeches Collection)
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a unique political figure, as he
approached racial issues with the use of non-violent techniques. His
poignant speeches were read with purpose and style. As a moving
speaker and an inspiring leader, he altered the views and attitudes of a
nation and guided his people during the civil rights movement.
After being a preacher, King attended Boston University School of
Theology where he received a PH.D. degree in systematic Theology. This
was where he developed his excellent speaking skills and decided that he
would involve himself into civil rights, trying to achieve equality among all
King Jr. overcame many challenging predicaments. He began his
revolution when he founded and became president of the Southern
Christian Leadership council (Seattle Times). Throughout 39 years of
leading a struggle for equality in the United States, he finally gained
triumph in merging public schools, transportation systems, recreational
facilities and public places such as department stores. He also improved
slums and made housing in Chicago available. Not only was he interested
in homeland problems, but he participated in demonstrating against the
Vietnam War. He related the war to domestic issues of poverty and from
there, began to represent the poor (Seattle Times).
In 1964, at the age of 35, Martin Luther King Jr. was the youngest
recipient of the Nobel Peace prize which he received in Oslo, Norway
(Deats, 2000, p.91). As the father of modern civil rights movement, Dr.
Martin Luther king, Jr., is recognized around the world as a symbol of
freedom and peace. King not only contributed to peace, but he also upheld
justice throughout American communities.
While visiting Memphis, Tennessee in 1968, Martin Luther King Jr.
was assassinated by James Earl Ray. 100 000 mourners attended his
funeral in 1968. The Lorraine Hotel in Memphis where he was shot is
currently the National Civil Rights Museum.
One can only value their freedom when they realize the price that
was paid for it. This price, by no means was money, but instead,
thousands of lives lost for freedom, among these was a king to African-
Americans, Dr. Martin Luther King. Peace and equality is now established
among all races in America, and it is now our duty to maintain this respect
for each other and pass it on to the future generations. As a legendary
father, supporter, leader and successor, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s
inspiration, love and might continues to thrive through his well-known
speeches and finally, through the American culture.
A Dream Come True
November 1, 2006
Baldwin, L. (1991). There Is a Balm in Gilead. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.
Deats, R (2000). Martin Luther King, Jr.: Spirit-Led Prophet. New York: New York City Press.
Harding V. (1996). Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero. New York: Orbis Books.
Jakoubek, R. (n.d.) Martin Luther King, Jr.: Civil Rights Leader. Chelsea House Publishers.
The Seattle Times. Martin Luther King Jr. & the Civil Rights Movement. Retrieved October 28, 2006, from
The Speeches Collection. (MPI Home Video). (n.d.) The Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. [Videotape].