Martin Luther King: A man on a mission

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July 20, 2012 by dontbringlulubook

During his time working for the BBC in New York, Ron Onions covered many iconic events.  The assassination of Martin Luther King on 4th April 1968 was once such moment in history.

This man, this leader of the civil rights movement, had his life cut short during the service of his people.

Preparing for a march in support of striking workers in Memphis, Martin Luther King was shot on the balcony of his hotel.

Born Michael Luther King, Jr. on 15th January 1929 he later changed his name to Martin.  His father and grandfather before him were pastors of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and Martin Luther continued the tradition, becoming a Baptist minister.

King attended segregated schools and he excelled, entering Morehouse College at just 15 years old.  He earned his BA degree in sociology in 1948.  Just three years later he was awarded the Bachelor of Divinity degree from Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania.  He won a fellowship and studied at Boston University, obtaining his doctorate in philosophy in 1955.

It was during his time in Boston that he met and married his wife Coretta Scott, who gave birth to two sons and two daughters.

From his early days, Martin Luther was a strong worker for change in civil rights and quickly found his footing in positions of leadership.  It was not long before he was on the executive committee for the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People.

King came to the forefront when leading non-violent demonstrations, following the ideals of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.  Although riots did occur, and sometimes with fatal consequences, it was never the intention and Martin Luther often approached cities struggling with violence in an attempt to calm the atmosphere.

1955-6 saw the Montgomery Bus Boycott last over 380 days.  Although it was a very difficult period for Martin Luther – he was arrested, abused and his home bombed – the outcome was a step in the right direction for equality.  The Jim Crow laws requiring segregation on buses were deemed ‘unconstitutional’ and everyone, regardless of the colour of their skin, were equals – when on a public bus in Montgomery at least.  It was a huge step for the change in attitude to civil rights.

His election to president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957 helped to spread his influence.  Martin Luther would travel to different cities requiring assistance and direction, Albany, Birmingham and Albama just three places where his presence was felt and where non-violent methods proved successful in changing laws.

He called for voters rights; equality on economic policies; the changing of segregation laws, organised mass marches, and addressed many gatherings including his famous 1963 ‘I have a dream’ speech in Washington DC, where his reputation as a global orator was secured.

Martin Luther King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize one year later at just 35 years old for his influence not only in America but around the world.

He addressed African-American civil rights issues as well as other problematic topics of the age, addressing conferences on the Vietnam War.  Never afraid to shy away, King spoke with Lyndon Johnson, Robert Kennedy and John F. Kennedy.

King was arrested numerous times and had survived attempts on his life.  His gave everything during his life to the advancement of equality and change.  Even in death his legacy lives on.

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