Martin Luther King Jr: Quotes, Assassination & Facts

Martin Luther King Jr., Atlanta, 1929 – Memphis, 1968, American Baptist Pastor, defender of civil rights. The long struggle of black Americans to achieve the fullness of rights has since 1955 experienced an acceleration in whose leadership. The young pastor Martin Luther King was soon to stand out.

Martin Luther King’s nonviolent action, inspired by Gandhi’s example, mobilized a growing portion of the African-American community to culminate in the summer of 1963 in the historic March on Washington, which gathered 250,000 demonstrators. There, at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King, pronounced the most famous and moving of his splendid speeches, known for the formula that led to the vision of a just world: I have a dream.

Despite police and racist arrests and assaults, the civil equality movement started up judicial rulings and legislative decisions against racial segregation and obtained the endorsement of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to King in 1964. Regrettably, a fateful destiny seems to drag the apostles of nonviolence: like his teacher Gandhi, Martin Luther King was killed four years later.

Son of a Baptist minister, Martin Luther King studied theology at Boston University. From a young age, he became aware of the situation of social and racial segregation in which the blacks of his country lived, especially those of the southern states. Became a Baptist pastor, in 1954 he took charge of a church in the city of Montgomery, Alabama with his wife, Coretta Scott, and his first daughter.

He showed his charisma and his firm determination to fight for the defense of civil rights with peaceful methods, inspired by the figure of Mahatma Gandhi and the theory of civil disobedience of Henry David Thoreau, the same sources those same years inspired Nelson Mandela’s struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

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In August 1955, a humble black dressmaker, Rosa Parks, was arrested and fined for sitting in the section reserved for bus targets; King led a massive boycott of more than a year against segregation on city buses.

The fame of Martin Luther King quickly spread throughout the country and soon assumed the direction of the American pacifist movement, first through the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and later the Congress of Racial Equality. Also, as a member of the Association for the Progress of People of Color, opened another front to achieve improvements in their living conditions.

In 1960 he took advantage of a spontaneous sit-in of black students in Birmingham, Alabama, to start a national campaign. On this occasion, Martin Luther King was imprisoned and later freed by the intercession of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, then-candidate for the presidency of the United States, but he managed for blacks equal access to libraries, dining rooms, and parking lots.

In the summer of 1963, his struggle reached one of its climaxes by leading a gigantic march on Washington in which some 250,000 people participated, to which he delivered the speech today entitled I have a dream, a beautiful speech in favor of peace and equality among human beings. King and other representatives of anti-racist organizations were received by President John F. Kennedy, who undertook to streamline his policy against segregation in schools and the issue of unemployment, which particularly affected the black community.

Martin Luther King addresses the crowd at the march on Washington. However, neither the good intentions of the president, who would die murdered months later nor the ethical vigor of the message of Martin Luther King, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1964, seemed sufficient to contain the advance of the nationalist groups of color opposed to integration and favorable to violence, such as Black Power, Black Panthers, on and Black Muslims. The permeability of the colored collectives to the influence of these violent groups endangered the core of King’s message, pacifism.

In March 1965 he led a demonstration by thousands of civil rights defenders who traveled almost a hundred kilometers, from Selma, where there had been acts of racial violence, to Montgomery. The fight of Martin Luther King had a tragic end: on the 4 of April 1968 was assassinated in Memphis by James Earl Ray, a common delinquent of the white race. While their funerals were being held at the Edenhaëser church in Atlanta, a wave of violence spread throughout the country. Ray, arrested by the police, was recognized as the perpetrator of the murder and was sentenced with circumstantial evidence. Years later he retracted his statement and, with the support of the King family, called for the reopening of the case and the hearing of a new trial.

Martin Luther King understood racial equality as an essential condition of human dignity, which was on the other hand legitimized, on a political level, by the principles of democracy (of which he always declared himself a supporter), and on the plane of moral, by religious principles. Consequently, the action aimed at the conquest of one’s rights should never be considered subversive or revolutionary. King did not proclaim the violation of the law but held that unjust laws can not be obeyed because they are opposed to the moral law. He pointed out the path of love as opposed to the inactivity of passive blacks and the exasperated hatred of the nationalists. And it hurt to not have been helped and understood by the white church.

In this sense, King adapted and developed Gandhi’s concept of non-violence, which he was able to apply creativelydespiteto in a series of anti-election campaigns that made him the most prestigious leader of the American civil rights movement. 1964 of the Nobel Peace Prize and caused his murder at the hands of a racist fanatic in 1968. After his death, the American black movement embarked on a more openly revolutionary and violent path, away from the Christian and liberal inspiration of King, whose memory, despite everything, she is still venerated and loved by the masses of the disinherited of her race.

The same year of the Nobel Prize, President Lyndon Johnson, Kennedy’s successor after the assassination, enacted the civil rights law, which enshrined the equality of all citizens. According to King, blacks had to abandon their abstract political neutrality important strengthen electoral alliances and support trustworthy candidates, because ‘the influence of blacks in political power is important. Only then would the true goal of freedom be reached, because the destiny of the blacks is united to that of all is the of America.

Its principles were expressed, in addition to the famous Letter from Birmingham Prison (1963, published by the French magazine Esprit in 1964), in numerous works including The Strength of Love (Strength to Love, 1965) and The Bugle of conscience (The Trumpet of Conscience, 1968), in which often his prose, inspired by the biblical tradition of Anglo-Saxon Protestantism, reaches moments of the highest emotion and humanity.

Special mention deserves Why we can not wait (Why We Can not Wait, 1964), to the extent that the exhibition of his political creed alternates in this work with a passionate evocation of the events of the summer of 1963 (lived by his author as a protagonist ) of great value as historical testimony. The book is the story of the liberation of a people, obtained through the use of ‘a powerful and just weapon … that cuts without hurting and ennobles the man who wields it’: nonviolence.

Despite the value of his written work, none of his texts aroused the universal admiration of the most famous of his speeches: the one he delivered on August 28, 19 before the 250,000 members of the march on Washington, at the foot of the Abraham Lincoln Monument, The president who, a century earlier, had abolished slavery: ‘A hundred years ago, a great American, under whose symbolic shadow we are today, signed the Proclamation of Emancipation.’ This momentous decree appeared as a great beacon of hope for millions of people. slaves who had been marked with the fire of flagrant injustice, it arrived like the jubilant dawn of the long night of their captivity, but one hundred years later, the colored American is still not free. ‘

Considered a masterpiece of oratory, the name with which this discourse is known comes from its central part, in which reiteratingreiterates the formula I have a dream Martin Luther King elevates to the condition of ideal the simple materialization of equality: ‘I dream that my four small children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the qualities of their character.’ Valuable as a condensed expression of its principles for its impressive emotional height, its validity continues to move more than half a century later.

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Martin Luther King Jr: Quotes, Assassination & Facts. (2022, Apr 29). Retrieved from

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