Martin Luther King the Story Term Paper

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... we noticed all over the polo grounds almost a half million people.... I could hear people shouting all over that vast audience, "Freedom, Freedom!" before I knew it, I started weeping. I was crying for joy.... And I could hear that old Negro spiritual once more crying out: 'Free at last, free at last, Great God Almighty, I'm free at last (Carson).'" Finally, Dr. King pointed out that," "The thing that impressed me more than anything else that night was when Nkrumah and his other ministers who had been in prison with him walked in. They didn't come in with the crowns and all of the garments of kings. They walked in with prison caps....Often the path to freedom will carry you through prison (Carson)."

Beginning in 1965 King started expressing his doubts over America's war in Vietnam. On April 4, 1967 King vocally expressed his doubts about the war when he stated that the America was trying to turn Vietnam into an American colony and was the leading cause of violence in the world. His position over the Vietnam War, however, was not received well by the U.S. media who up until then had supported him vigorously during his struggle for civil rights.

In 1968 King led and organized the Poor People's Campaign, which was another Washington, DC march devoted towards calling for economic aid to America's poorest communities. This campaign reflected King's later ideological views; he began calling for more fundamental changes to take place within the country's political and economic framework. This meant that King's views on capitalism were slowly changing in favor of those regarding democratic socialism.

King's assassination on April 4, 1968 took place in Memphis, Tennessee at the Lorraine Motel. King had arrived there in order to support the city's predominantly black sanitation workers' strike. King's murder was blamed on James Earl Ray, a white supremacist and segregationist, who later confessed to doing the deed. Nationwide riots occurred shortly after King's death and many attended the funeral.

Many believe a conspiracy was involved in covering up who King's real killers were; such a conspiracy meant that Ray was not alone in plotting to kill the civil rights leader. King's bitter relationship with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's head J. Edgar Hoover had led many to believe the FBI was somehow involved in the assassination. In 1976 a task force was created to find out how the FBI handled Dr. King's security and murder investigation. After an extensive look at the evidence, the task force did not find any proof that either the FBI or the Memphis Police Department was involved in Dr. King's murder.

The task force did find, however, that the FBI's extensive surveillance of Dr. King's activities beginning in 1962 was largely unwarranted. The original intention of the surveillance was to discover whether Dr. King had any affiliation with the Communist Party USA, since it was earlier found that one of his advisors was once a member of that party. The FBI conducted electronic surveillance of King's activities, which included wire tapping his phones and bugging his hotel rooms. However, findings later indicated that the civil rights leader had never openly professed towards supporting the Communist Party.

The task force also found that the FBI engaged in illegal activities in order to harm the reputation of King, his family and friends, and his movement. This included the propagation of damaging information about King and his associates to the public, in order to embarrass them. Such damaging was even conducted after King's death, when the FBI tried to convince Congress that King's legacy was not worthy of being celebrated as a national holiday. The purpose of this damaging was to prevent the civil rights movement from becoming popular and to bring forth a new black leader who would be acquiescent of the government's demands. Such extreme measures by the FBI reveal how much of a struggle King was engaged in during his fight for civil rights.

King was instrumental in bringing civil rights issues to the nation's attention at a time when blacks and other minorities faced insurmountable obstacles in their pursuit of the American Dream. King and the SCLC helped to bring several pressing issues to the fore including, desegregation, fair hiring practices, and the right to vote, among others. Throughout his campaign King advocated the use of non-violence to achieve his goals.

He had been highly influenced by Ghandi's use of non-violence to achieve independence for India. In a speech to the SCLC on August 16, 1967, King stated that, "through violence you may murder a murderer but you can't murder. Through violence you may murder a liar but you can't establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can't murder hate. Darkness cannot put out darkness. Only light can do that (Where do we.. para 19) -- .

King continues by stating that, -- I have also decided to stick to love. For I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind's problems. And I'm going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn't popular to talk about it in some circles today. I'm not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love, I'm talking about a strong, demanding love (Where do we.. para. 20) -- . Through this affirmation of love, King states that non-violence is the method through which the civil rights movement will gain recognition and sympathy the world over, -- What is needed is a strategy for change, a tactical program that will bring the Negro into the mainstream of American life as quickly as possible. So far, this has only been offered by the nonviolent movement (Where do we.. para. 18)

King's non-violent tactics were almost always put to the severest tests whenever he dealt with violent measures from the opposing side. Such measures included police brutality, bombing of homes, threats to family and friends, and illegal harming of reputation, among other things. Despite all these obstacles King continued to lead the movement until the federal government passed the historic Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act.

King's tireless efforts to promote civil rights helped blacks and other minorities to make substantial progress in the path towards freedom. Thanks to King's efforts, legislation was passed banning employment discrimination and promoting the right to vote among all citizens of the United States. Also thanks to King, segregation was dismantled throughout the South after being deemed illegal. King's legacy was officially recognized in 1986 when Martin Luther King Day was made a national holiday, which is observed every year on the third Monday of the month of January. On January 18, 1993 Martin Luther King Day was celebrated for the first time within all 50 states.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s story has affected me a great deal because I have now started to realize that a lot of the rights and privileges that all American citizens are now entitled to had been won earlier on through his endless struggle. Nowadays people have become so used to those opportunities that they have either forgotten or could never imagine that there was once a time in American history where many were not entitled to these opportunities.

King's strength and determination against overwhelming odds has made me feel a great deal of admiration for him and to realize that one should never give up working towards whatever righteous cause one sincerely believes in. Admittedly I did not know much about his life and legacy before engaging in this research assignment. All I had ever known was that he was one of America's great leaders and that he worked to bring civil rights issues into focus. After reading about what he had to endure while struggling for his cause and about the many obstacles he faced while doing so, I have come to have some newfound respect for him.

A also felt that King was a wonderful leader and was capable of making his followers love and respect him as their commander. His steadfast support for achieving his goals through non-violence made him gain much respect and sympathy from public officials, the media organizations, and members of the public who would otherwise have not been aware of the issues surrounding the civil rights movement. He gained much widespread support and sympathy from individuals of all races and of all walks of life within American society. His handling of the hostility and opposition of other members of society was also especially admirable. He never once allowed those actions to prevent him from striving for his cause and he never tried to fulfill any personal vendetta against his opponents.

The story of Martin Luther King Jr. has influenced me in wanting to learn more about the civil rights movement and its ongoing efforts towards promoting equal opportunities and freedoms for everyone. There continues to be a need for Americans…[continue]

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