A Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement

A Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement

One of the most visible advocates of nonviolence and direct action as methods of social change, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in Atlanta on January 15, 1929.  As the grandson of the Rev. A.D. Williams, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist church and a founder of Atlanta’s NAACP chapter, and the son of Martin Luther King, Sr., who succeeded Williams as Ebenezer’s pastor, King’s roots were in the African-American Baptist church.  After attending Morehouse College in Atlanta, King went on to study at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania and Boston University, where he deepened his understanding of theological scholarship and explored Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent strategy for social change.

King married Coretta Scott in 1953, and the following year he accepted the pastorate at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.  King received his Ph.D. in systematic theology from Boston University in 1955.  On December 5, 1955, after civil rights activist Rosa Parks refused to comply with Montgomery’s segregation policy on buses, black residents launched a bus boycott and elected King president of the newly-formed Montgomery Improvement Association.  The boycott continued throughout 1956 and King gained national prominence for his role in the campaign.  In December 1956 the United States Supreme Court declared Alabama’s segregation laws unconstitutional, and Montgomery’s buses were desegregated.

Seeking to build upon the success in Montgomery, Dr. King and other southern black ministers founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957.  In 1959, King toured India in order to further develop his understanding of Gandhian nonviolent strategies.  In the spring of 1963, King and the SCLC led mass demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama, where local white police officials were known for their violent opposition to integration.  Clashes between unarmed black demonstrators and police armed with dogs and fire hoses generated newspaper headlines throughout the world.  President Kennedy responded to the Birmingham protests by submitting broad civil rights legislation to Congress, which led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Subsequent mass demonstrations culminated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963, in which more than 250,000 protesters gathered in Washington, D. C.  It was on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that King delivered his famous I Have a Dream speech.

King’s renown continued to grow and he was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.  The Presidential Medal of Freedom was awarded to Dr. King by President Jimmy Carter in 1964.  In late 1967, King initiated the Poor People’s Campaign, which was designed to confront economic problems that had not been addressed by earlier civil rights reforms.  The following year, while supporting striking sanitation workers in Memphis, he delivered his final address, I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.  The following day, April 4, 1968, Dr. King was assassinated.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: I Have a Dream

A Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King and His Time

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In Honor of Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks: The Foundation of the Civil Rights Movement

This weekend marks the anniversary of the day that Rosa Parks, a black seamstress, defied the law by refusing to give up her seat to a white man aboard a Montgomery, Ala., city bus in 1955. On December 1st, 1955, Parks, a 42-year-old mild-mannered seamstress living in the racially segregated South, boarded a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.  For her act of defiance, Mrs. Parks was arrested, convicted of violating the segregation laws and fined $10, plus $4 in court fees.

Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights Movement

However, her refusal to give up her seat to a white man led to a subsequent year-long boycott of the city’s bus system by Montgomery’s black residents, which was led by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., who went on to become a central figure in the fight for equal rights for blacks during the 1960s.  But it was Rosa Parks’ quiet defiance of discrimination that rendered herself an important symbol of the burgeoning civil rights movement, laying the very foundation for the important later work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and others.

Rosa Parks: A Civil Rights Documentary

Rosa Parks died in Detroit on Monday, October 25th, 2005 at the age of 92.  The late civil rights icon was the first woman to lie in state in the U. S. Capitol Rotunda, a tribute usually reserved for presidents, soldiers and politicians.  Both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives voted to honor Parks with this extraordinary national homage.  “The movement that Rosa Parks helped launch changed not only our country, but the entire world, as her actions gave hope to every individual fighting for civil and human rights. We now can honor her in a way deserving of her contributions and legacy,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat.  According to the Architect of the Capitol, the Capitol Rotunda had been used for this honor only 28 times since 1852.  Other Americans so honored have included Presidents Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson and World War II General Douglas MacArthur.  Shamefully, despite the many posthumous honors and accolades, Rosa Parks died in a state of abject poverty, with none of the major human rights organizations offering to provide even the smallest amount of financial support to meet her meager, basic living needs during the later part of her life.

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