Martin Luther King is the most famous African American preacher, bright speaker and leader of non-violent resistance to racism. The American politician is one of the leading figures in the history of the struggle against discrimination, segregation and racism in the United States. Martin Luther King made a significant contribution to the modern political history. King has set a moral standard of non-violent resistance. Martin Luther King sought to declare the United States a free state from racial discrimination. The public figure had charisma and faith, conveying his vision to other citizens and urging to join forces to combat racism. King led the civil rights movement in the United States during the 1950s-60s. In 1964, Martin Luther King as an example of non-violent mass protester was awarded the Nobel Prize for the contribution to the democratization of American society.
The paper describes the process of personality formation, establishment of King's political and philosophical views, and the main stages of his political activities in the late 1950s-60s. The purpose of the article is to cover the public figure's biography, major works that were a significant contribution to the democratization of society and their relevance in the modern world. King's work as a fountainhead of the improved society is the basis for the analysis of his public activities on various issues in the domestic politics.
Keywords: I have a dream, the leader of the African American movement, racism
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King was an American preacher and the most famous leader of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. He was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta in the religious patriarchal family. The church had a significant role in their lives because his father was a priest. Since childhood, King has sung the psalms in the church at meetings. King, Jr. was a strong, single-minded and persistent child. As a child, King worked as a courier and later became the deputy manager. Apparently, irascible and erratic temperament of his father and imperturbable composure of his mother had a significant reflection on the character of Martin Luther King. Thus, King’s immersion in himself and conscientiousness were two character traits peculiar to him.
King entered the Morehouse College in 1944. During his study, he became a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (Carson, 2001). King realized that religion could be a powerful catalyst for the social change. Martin Luther King took the second place in the eloquence competition in the second year of study. In fact, the father's sermon had a significant influence on the formation of the oratorical manner of King, but he looked like a typical representative of the refined culture. At that time, Martin Luther King had the opportunity to explore the racial problems because the theme of racial discrimination has become relevant during the Second World War. Talking about King’s membership, he was a member of the organization the Council on the Links between Colleges which had a profound influence on his views. Martin said, “Normal business relationships have convinced me that we have many allies among white people, especially among the youth. I was ready to hate the entire white race, but my indignation has lost sharpness due to the spirit of cooperation with a large number of white people”. In his student years, he worked as a storekeeper with white people, and he did not notice a particular difference in their views and interests. However, there was the difference in pay for the same work (Carson, 2001). It proves the truth of one of the axioms “Money is not only the root of evil, but they are also the source of a particular kind of evil – racism.” King graduated from college with a Bachelor's degree in Sociology in 1948 and continued studies at the Theological Seminary in Chester. Martin Luther King entered the graduate school at Boston University, and in 1955, King defended his dissertation and became a Doctor of Philosophy.
The New Hero of the United States
The first significant event in King's political career was a Bus-boycott. In fact, this event became the beginning of the active movement toward the struggle for the rights of black people, and this moment was a prominent landmark in the history of the struggle for civil rights. In 1955, African American woman Rosa Parks from Montgomery refused to renounce her seat and give it a white passenger in public transport; consequently, she was arrested. At that time, indignant African Americans have created the association to organize a boycott of the city bus system, and Martin Luther King was the leader of it. In the first speech to the association, King said, “We have no alternative to protest. We showed the striking patience for many years. We came here to get rid of this patience and get freedom and justice.” Participants of non-violent disobedience movement forced the city to pay a high economic price for the practice of segregation (McGill, 2005). In 1956, the US Supreme Court rejected a final appeal of the city. Hereby, King became a figure of a national scale as a result of the boycott. Undoubtedly, the persuasive presence and unsurpassed oratorical skills have attracted public attention, making white people support him and express their sympathy.
I Have a Dream
“I Have a Dream” is the name of the most famous public speeches by Martin Luther King in 1963. The monolog was delivered to 250 thousand audiences during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In fact, this protest is one of the largest demonstrations in the capital. Apparently, the speech by Martin Luther King was a catalyst for the civil rights movement in the United States. As a result, this movement has completely changed the daily social life of the country. Talking about King’s speech, he used the themes from the Bible and canonical American texts such as the US Constitution, Declaration of Independence and the appeal of Abraham Lincoln. Martin Luther King organized the speech in the style and structure of the sermon, which was similar to his performance during worship services.
The peculiarity of King's speech is a large number of metaphors and the use of unexpected words, comparisons and ideas. King utilized religious phraseology that had a significant impact on the perception of information. Moreover, throughout his speech, one can notice a metaphorical connotation (Hansen, 2003). In fact, there are four qualities inherent in the speech of Martin Luther King such as the eloquence, passion, meaningfulness, and credibility. King said, "We cannot quench the thirst of freedom by drinking the bitterness and hatred from the bowl!" The speech gave the society energy during the civil rights movement (King, 2003).
The words of the speech “I Have a Dream” are the culmination of the oratory and a turning point in the history of the development of human rights. The American Society of oratory has recognized this speech as the best and most famous in the 20th century (King, 2003).
Letter from Birmingham Jail
Martin Luther King was arrested and taken into custody, where he wrote the famous essay “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” It was the manifesto of the fighters against discrimination aimed at defending moral human rights (Snow, 1985). King has created one of the most significant documents in the history of American thought while being a prisoner in a prison cell. Apparently, some local priests did not agree with his short-term tactics. According to the public statements of the priests, they called the demonstration an unwise and untimely action under the leadership of Martin Luther King. The priests performed against his civil disobedience despite the peaceful action. Thus, “Letter from the Birmingham jail” is a response to these statements. In fact, he wrote an essay on the margins of the newspaper page, and the assistant of King had the opportunity to carry it from prison. King denounced the inaction in the face of injustice and had unshakable faith in America's democratic future. Thus, Martin Luther King described the eternal and universal truth to dispel pastors’ accusations. King said, “Injustice is a threat to the justice everywhere. We are in interdependence that is interwoven with a single destiny. If it affects one person, it affects all indirectly” (as cited in Snow, 1985). According to King, constructive and non-violent tension is necessary for the growth. However, a direct and immediate action did not seem timely for people, who have not suffered from the disease of segregation. Apparently, the phrase “we have to expect” always means “never.” King said, “No one can establish the timing of the freedom of another person.”
King acknowledged that he violated the prohibition of the district court, but he referred to the difference between just and unjust laws, as defined by St. Augustine. According to King, a person who violates the unfairness of the law in order to arouse conscience of the society deserves the highest respect (Snow, 1985). King believed in the victory of freedom in the United States, "I do not have fear about the outcome of our struggle. We will achieve the goal because the goal of America is freedom. The sacred heritage of our country and the eternal will of God are embodied in our requirements.”
The Differences of Views with Other Activists
Martin Luther King and Malcolm X are the heroes of the struggle for civil rights of African Americans. Although Malcolm X supported a radical and separatist struggle, Martin Luther King believed in a peaceful resolution of the problems through reforms. Malcolm was convinced that African Americans can achieve recognition of rights and freedoms and take a rightful place in society only through revolution. On the contrary, Martin Luther King considered himself an integral part of European civilization and believed in American democratic values, urging that reform of the US government was introduced (King, 1964). King was a supporter of the evolutionary nature of the changes. Another example is the belief of William Dubois as one of the founders and active members of the movement for the rights of African Americans. William believed that African Americans should adapt to the American way of life naturally, while Martin Luther King found it necessary to fight for their rights.
King made a tremendous contribution to the democratization of American society. Martin Luther King has laid the moral, political and organizational basis for the civil rights movement in the twentieth century, and he contributed to the formation of the new thinking of people. The relevance of King's work cannot be overemphasized, since he laid the intellectual foundation for the successful solution of racism. Moreover, he established the moral principles, supported non-violent resistance and destroyed the barriers between Americans of any race, creed, and color of the skin. King was an example for millions of Americans as a fighter against the realities of racial discrimination. Martin Luther King formed a political reality that was expressed in the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
Martin Luther King has identified the essence of the American democratic dreams and brought the spiritual light of the fight against racism. King, as a politician, is the unique figure. According to the traditional standard of American political opinion, he was a leader who believed in Christian love. Martin Luther King was a highly educated man. King considered that the racial segregation was the most urgent moral and social problem in America. King organized the sit-ins and violated the discriminatory laws.
Martin Luther King made an invaluable contribution to the struggle for human rights. King devoted himself to the fight against racism and defended the freedom and independence of African Americans. African Americans have achieved equality of political, social, civil rights and liberties due to the activity of King.