Martin Luther King, Jr., is known for being an excellent orator and one of the main leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. As a child, Martin Luther King, Jr., grew up in Georgia with a father and a grandfather as pastors in his hometown church. After graduating from high school, he went on to earn a Ph.D. in theology and used his knowledge of religion and the law to point out the systemic and unjust discrimination that African Americans still continued to face despite the Supreme Court ruling that segregation was unconstitutional and that African Americans had the legal right to vote. While working as a pastor in Montgomery, Alabama, Martin Luther King, Jr., worked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (the NAACP) to promote civil rights and racial equality in America. Martin Luther King, Jr., implemented the ideas of nonviolence and peace into the protests against racism, racial discrimination, and racial segregation that permeated American society – ideas and beliefs from both Christianity and Mahatma Gandhi that he implemented and built upon during the Civil Rights Movements.
In Montgomery, Alabama, Martin Luther King, Jr., led the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott that resulted in the desegregation of public buses. While organizing and leading several other nonviolent protests to highlight and combat racial inequality, he won a Nobel Peace Prize and was given the title of TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year. Martin Luther King, Jr., continued to oppose racism and racial inequality through organized marches and other such protests – most notably the march from Selma to Montgomery as a demonstration of the need for African Americans to have the right to vote as well as sufficient and unobstructed access to the voting polls (i.e., no discriminatory taxes, poll tests, or reading tests meant to keep African Americans disenfranchised and unable to vote). He worked to oppose systemic racial injustices happening round America, from housing issues to voting issues to education issues, and everything in between. One of his most famous speeches was the “I Have A Dream” speech given at the 1963 March on Washington where he discussed how he dreamt of a future where his children and grandchildren didn’t have to face the same racial inequalities and injustices that he had to face, and how there needed to be both a political and social change in America in order for this to happen.
Unfortunately, Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in 1968 by a man named James Earl Ray while preparing for a protest in Washington, D.C. His death was followed by riots all across America, and his killer was sentenced to 99 years in prison for the murder. While the FBI and the American government were never too fond of Martin Luther King, Jr., during his life (as they wrongly thought of him as a communist looking to overthrow the American government when he was really just protesting Jim Crow laws and racial inequality – things that didn’t necessarily mean a need for a new American government, no matter how systemically racist it might be), Martin Luther King, Jr., was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal after his death in 1968. Several years later, in 1971, several states and cities celebrated the Martin Luther King, Jr., Day that was established around his birthday to celebrated his life and his achievements. A decade later, in 1981, the federal government made the holiday a federal holiday, and it’s been celebrated ever since.
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