Guest Author - Toni Collinson
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is perhaps the best known civil rights advocate in history. He was a husband, father, and pastor. With his education and public speaking capabilities, he was able to shine a light on the issues surrounding the African-American community in the United States of America.
Challenging racial segregation was not an easy task. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was beaten and imprisoned on several occasions. But he didn’t give up. He kept fighting, hoping for a better world. His famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech is testament to that. His dream was to have a community that was unified, and where skin color doesn’t place you in a box. First and foremost, he wanted equal rights and opportunities for all.
King was an advocate for direct, non-violent protest. He even travelled to India so that he could learn about Ghandi’s non-violent methods. His first protest was the ‘Montgomery Bus Boycott’, which was sparked when Rosa Parks was arrested in 1955 for not giving up her seat on a bus to a white person.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a movement where African-American’s boycotted the bus system in an attempt to have bus segregation laws uplifted. These laws stated that African-Americans were to sit at the back of the bus, and were to give up their seat if a white person had nowhere else to sit. The boycott caused authorities to listen, and African-Americans were awarded with new laws stating that bus services were not to be segregated.
Another famous movement that King was involved with was the march from Montgomery to Selma, in order to protest for equal voting rights. This was a protest that ended particularly badly, after police tear-gassed and beat protesters. This disgusting brutality against free speech is now known as ‘Bloody Sunday’.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was someone that everyone can look up to. He was ordained as a Baptist Minister at the young age of 18, and also became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was not afraid to share his beliefs, and was not afraid to be the voice of those who felt that their speech had been taken from them.
On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated at the early age of 39. He was in Memphis, Tennessee, supporting the rights of garbage workers. The entire country mourned his death. People were left dumbfounded, anguished that someone would take the life of such a great leader. Over 100 cities in the USA experienced riots over this time, which is a testament to how people felt. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is now remembered by a national holiday to commemorate his life and work, which was so crucial for American citizens.