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Martin Luther King in history


The struggle for better treatment of the blacks in the United States of America has been an intense one. This is evident from the creation of many reformist groups that are led by famous activists who campaign for an equal attitude to all the races. In America, the white community has long been accused of having tendencies to show discrimination and segregation against representatives of other nations especially the blacks (A Testament of Hope 67). Pain and a longstanding racist environment prompted the revolutions that demanded the appreciation of other nationalities and their share in constitutional rights. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the key activists fighting for the black community. He made huge contribution into the formation of a peaceful America through the use of his knowledge in religion and politics (Letter 14). He mainly achieved it with the help of literature; he wrote books and various accounts that promoted brotherhood and nonviolent actions.

When he was in jail in Birmingham for participation in violent protests, he wrote a letter in response to criticism. Allegedly, while being held in prison, he addressed the clergymen in his account called Letter from a Birmingham Jail. He opted to use negotiation techniques in his work as a new way that could result in change and justice. King believed that the white community had the ability to stand for justice like any other man. In spite of all the efforts made by many national activists against unfair treatment, there was a deep belief that the blacks were ‘niggers’ who could not catch up with the capacities of the white people (“The Untold Story”). America faced several riots and protests centering on slavery and poor treatment of workers, especially black individuals. Before the creation of groups that campaigned for equality of all the races, the blacks were oppressed and disrespected on account of their skin color.

This paper studies the activities that surround the Civil Rights Movement that was aimed at seeking justice and equal rights for all people in the society regardless of the nationality. In addition, it delves into the reasons of why the Negros had to rebel. It is a fact that African-Americans were a small group in the United States that faced huge discrimination and subsequent segregation. Thus, it was reasonable that they began fighting against such an unfair treatment by their fellow civilians. The paper uses vital evidence and discussions to create a credible account of the events. It focuses on Martin Luther King Jr. after the rise of the black revolution following cases like the murder of Emmitt Till in Mississippi by two white citizens. It also uses secondary sources of information to provide factual data that supports the discussion.

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Letter from Birmingham Jail

Martin Luther King Jr. was jailed in Birmingham for participation in illegal activities. He was imprisoned without any investigation owing to the high level of racism in the state. While in jail, much criticism was expressed concerning his work and the ideas he stood for. King was a black educated individual who had deep beliefs in Christianity; in fact, he was an evangelist. In prison, he responded to one comment that claimed his intentions were untimely and directed it to clergymen. This account is a strong reaction that was designed to maintain neutrality and sound reasoning in the effort of balancing the warring parties. King expresses his opinion on the issue of racism and challenges the clergymen concerning their practices. Martin Luther was the chairman of Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) that functioned to campaign and ensure that blacks lived in harmony and satisfaction. The chaotic scenario that was created by the fight between the white and blacks became a national issue (Letter 99). The number of complaining black citizens was increasing.

The Murder of Emmett Till

It all started with the murder of the 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi by Bryant and his friend. The boy had been mutilated before being shot in cold blood after seducing Bryant’s wife. When Till went to visit his relatives in Mississippi, he met a 21-year-old lady and talked to her. Carolyne Bryant’s husband sought revenge and kidnapped the boy, gouged his eye and shot him in the head before throwing him in Tallahatchie River. The victim’s body was discovered in three days. There were mixed reactions to this unfortunate revelation. The public went to blame the two murderers and demanded justice just like the boy’s relatives. When the suspected murderers came before the court, they denied the claims and were acquitted. Martin Luther said in his letter that when the law is unjust it is appropriate to break it. The boy was killed and tied with cotton and barbed wire as a message from the killer to Negroes. It indicated a high level of racism in the region. Till’s mother back in Chicago received the mutilated body and opted for its national display to demonstrate the results of a growing hostility towards the blacks. This open funeral was an impulse for the revolution that spread all over American states.

While addressing the clergymen in the Letter from Birmingham Jail, King speaks of the evil that lies in racism and segregation. He paints the picture of the situation that many African-Americans were going through to the audience. The approach used by King in negotiation for reconsideration of the matters was a diplomatic one that sought to reason. He says that he is in Birmingham because injustice is in the town. He even goes on to state that the reason of why he is in jail is to be blamed exclusively on the injustice in the place.

The rise of this breed of activists was crucial for the black generation in America. In the year 1960, there were numerous efforts to create a permanent plan to remove this social evil from the society (Metress 20). The creation of the Civil Rights Movement by the blacks was a huge step towards battling such a mischief. Several campaigns and gatherings followed the establishment of the movement. They aimed at wiping out the traces of activities and practices that demoralized civilians such as the slavery that existed in America putting many generations under the oppression.

Before the president had signed the Civil Rights Act, all public places were prohibited for the blacks, and any association with the white had to be on the “superior-inferior” basis. Afro-Americans had to behave as if they were lower than the whites even when they were not slaves. Martin Luther talks about the general oppression that the black community was facing. He speaks of great men like Socrates who did not compromise concerning what they wanted (King 65). King insists that all men are born similarly and should be treated equally. According to the religious beliefs, it is expected that the equal treatment is administered to everyone.

The Emergence of the Civil Rights Movement

Factors that prompted this fight in the society were mainly the external ones. All public places were out of bounds for the blacks that created a large gap in status and relations that automatically placed Negroes below the whites. It was time for the Afro-Americans to rebel against these conditions and demand an equal role in the society. They could no longer live in America where people lynched them without being penalized for such actions. For instance, Bryant and his friend did not get any form of punishment for taking Emmett Till’s life. Moreover, the mother and her family did not receive any closure concerning the case. This is only one of the many situations that were ignored by the government. The life of a black individual was seen as worthless in the eyes of the whites. It was the time for the black community to demand the dignity they deserved. In his letter, King rejected waiting anymore despite the claims that his efforts are untimely (“The Untold Story”). He refuses to accept the title of “outsiders” that was given to the blacks insisting that they are equal to the rest of the residents in the country. The arguments that are brought out in the letter are a reflection of the general grievance that Afro-Americans experienced under the oppression.

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The nation lived under the authority of police who ensured its security. It later on turned out that this force was used to oppress the blacks even more by administering cruel policies that sought to promote even further segregation. Before the signing of the Civil Rights Act, the black community had been fought against with a lot of hatred from their fellow citizens. Even after the introduction of this law that protected the rights of all Americans despite their skin color, many still faced segregation as its spread was enormous. The law enforcement sector was a vicious force that went on to enforce the policy that put all dark-skinned individuals below the whites (Metress 62). However, the struggle was launched, and the nation adopted laws that protected against discrimination on grounds of sex, religion or skin color many individuals and their generations had suffered from for a long time. It was a difficult fight for the black community. The mass brutality that was directed to the blacks died with the end of slavery. King speaks of a generation that will never surrender to the authority that discriminates its subjects and oppresses them in every activity.

Justice that was being preached by activists centered on killing the idea of racism. Discrimination excluded many individuals from participating in and benefiting from numerous activities in the society. For instance, lack of association separated Negroes and the whites in public places so that they seemed to be enemies. The fruits of racism did not only run in politics but in all national matters, and even in social life. The seeds of hatred are buried so deep in the children and parents that there are still traces of racism in America (Letter 15).


The fact that the dark-skinned population was considered to be inferior brought a traumatizing experience to the blacks. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his letter in Birmingham jail to demonstrate the oppressive nature of the treatment of Afro-Americans in the United States. In addition, King endeavored to discourage racism directed towards black Americans and challenged the clergymen concerning their practices. His effort was aimed at ensuring that black people in America lived in harmony and satisfaction, as well as solving the conflict between the whites and blacks.

As revealed in this paper, many atrocities were committed against black people, and they were even killed due to racism. This resulted in the emergence of the Civil Rights Movement in order to fight for the rights of black people. It included the battle for the equal treatment in the society, and this is undoubtedly the most memorable endeavor of Martin Luther King Jr.