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Civil Rights and African American Life

So how did African-Americans get looked down on? Well, it was in 1619 when Africans were brought to America as slaves for the white settlement. While slavery was eradicated after the Civil war the racism and segregation side of it still occurred. During the 20th century, the fight for equality for African-Americans led to massive civil rights campaigns.

While many of you may have heard of Martin Luther King there may have been things that were left out and today I will tell you a little more about the man that America calls their hero. Martin Luther King was born on the 15th January 1929. While he was originally known as Michael Luther King, he later changed his name to Martin. While Martin was formerly a preacher he became a figurehead of the modern civil rights movement by 1957. He married Coretta Scott and raised four children.

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Both Martins’s father and grandfather were Baptist preachers and both were involved in the civil rights movement. Martin was very close to his family and at the time of his grandma’s death jumped out of the second floor of his home but was fortunately not hurt. After graduating he considered careers in medicine and law but entered the ministry.

As a boy, Martin suffered racial discrimination. He recalls on one occasion he and his schoolteacher were ordered to give up their seats on the bus to white passengers. Martin did not want to move but at the time it was legal for segregation and Martins’s school teacher pointed out that they should obey the law.

Martin Luther King practiced non-violent means of getting his message across. Non-violent can also be known as Passive resistance. So what is resistance? Passive resistance is the practice of applying power to achieve socio-political goals through peaceful protests, boycotts, non-cooperation, civil disobedience and other methods without resorting to any means of violence.

While studying, Martin heard a lecture regarding Mahatma Gandhi and the non-violent civil disobedience campaign that he had used against the British in India. After reading and researching several books on the outline of Gandhi’s methods King came to the conclusion that the same process could be engaged by the black population in America to acquire civil rights and equality.

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On the 1st of December 1955, Rosa Parks who was an African-American was coming home from a hard day’s work as a tailor’s assistant. While on the bus she was asked to give up her seat to a white man. Before segregation was made illegal, blacks were expected to give up their seats to any white person standing even though the black person could and in some cases might have been disabled or pregnant. Ms. Parks refused to give up her seat and was arrested for the “crime” she committed.

King and other fellow civil rights leaders felt that some kind of protest was needed and so they called a meeting. Martin told everyone who had come to hear his words that the only way they could fight their white brothers was to boycott the bus company. As a means of transport, many walked, arranging rides with friends, families or strangers. Due to the boycott African-Americans who were waiting on the street to be picked up were arrested for loitering.

While the boycott continued, Martin faced danger many times. At one stage his family home was bombed with his wife and baby daughter inside. When Martin arrived home he found his wife and daughter were unharmed, he also found an angry mob of African-Americans outside his house confronting white police officers. The police officers said they “Regretted the unfortunate incident.” During this time Martin went outside to control the crowd. To everyone’s amazement, Martin calmly put up his hand and said, “Put down your weapons. We cannot solve this problem through retaliatory violence.”

It took the United States Supreme Court to end the boycott which lasted for over a year, to be precise it lasted 381 days in total. The court affirmed that segregation on busses was illegal. While segregation was only ruled out on busses many areas were still divided and the black population was unable to enter into those areas and if they were they were either ignored or were forced out by police. Not all non-violent protests were successful. On one occasion, there was a campaign to end segregation at lunch counters in Alabama. This was unsuccessful and police not only used fire hoses on campaigners but also police dogs. Martin and a large number of other supporters including children were arrested and some were imprisoned.

After the boycott’s success, Martin wrote a book with the title “Stride toward freedom.” A small number of black students read his book and decided to take part in the civil rights movement. The students started sit-ins at a restaurant that refused to serve black people. Others heard of these sit-ins and joined them; soon they had occupied all of the seats within the restaurant. While some students were assaulted, they never fought back, they had adopted Martins’s non-violent tactic. These students were successful and other sit-ins also followed against segregation in public swimming pools, churches, museums, parks and beaches.

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Martin Luther King was a man of words. At any one of his protests, there were a lot of people who would come and listen to his words. An extract from his famous speech ‘I have a dream,’ is discontented as he feels that his children will be treated the same way he was. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but the content of their character. Martins’ speeches were not only motivating but also inspirational.

During the time of Martin Luther King, another leader was also trying to fight for black rights. Although it would have made more sense for both groups to fight together as one, Malcolm X had different ideas. Unlike King, Malcolm was brought up in an unstable environment and had little education. His father was murdered when the KKK burnt down his home and after that, his mum had a breakdown which caused the whole family to split.

Due to all of the nightmares in his life, Malcolm had a desire for revenge and hatred. Malcolm and his supporters believed that violence was the answer and that non-violence would do nothing to help the black population of America. They were not devastated by the assassination of John. F. Kennedy. In fact, Malcolm believed that John had deserved it, although John was a huge supporter of the civil rights movements in America and had passed many laws that would give the black population a greater role in society.

It is not fair to compare two totally different people, but just to show how two people with the same amount of power can either totally kill of one race or can help all different races come together and live together as one I have decided to show how both Martin Luther King and Adolf Hitler used their powers. It can also be said that Adolf Hitler did have more power due to the colour of his skin. To compare Martin Luther Kings’ power with the power of Adolf Hitler it is easy to see which one of these two was thinking more in the lines of a criminal mind. While Adolf decided that he wanted a superior race, a perfect race, he killed of many that he discriminated against.

Hitler was powerful enough to influence his ideas throughout the whole world, instead, he abused the power he had just to try and build a society that would have never have worked out. While King decided to use posters as a means of letting people know about the civil rights movement, Hitler used guns and secret police to get rid of his enemies and people that he thought did not belong in ‘his’ country.

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While Martin tried to build up America’s people and try to get everyone to live together as one, Hitler tried to build up Germany and in doing so gained more control over the country while trying to dominate the lives of Jewish people within the country. Instead of peaceful marches and protests, Hitler started up concentration camps in which Jews were treated as an unwanted plague. Instead of letting everyone have their own opinions, Hitler brainwashed people’s minds with promises that would never have gone ahead.

For his hard work, helping to bring peace and equality into America, Martin Luther King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was the youngest man to do so at the age of 35.

While Martin did live to see some of his achievements, in 1968 at the age of 39, four years after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, he was assassinated in a motel he was staying in during his visit to Memphis. He was shot in the neck and later died in hospital. Martin knew all along that one day he would be assassinated after seeing former US president John F Kennedy being assassinated as well.

Martin did a lot in a bid to help America and its black history. Without the help of Martin Luther King, who knows what and how Black Americans would be treated nowadays, this is why Martin Luther King is known as America’s Hero.

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Civil Rights and African American Life. (2021, Feb 16). Retrieved February 7, 2023, from