Martin Luther King Junior was a social activist, humanitarian and the leader of the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. He was highly inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s values on ahimsa and led non-violent and peaceful protests using civil disobedience based on Christian Beliefs to lead the movement. He led the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 and found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957. He played a crucial role in the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by Congress and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. King Jr. led a campaign in Birmingham, Alabama for mass demonstrations asking for people to live in harmony without judging each other on the basis of race. His march to Washington, DC attracted about 250,000 protestors and made headlines all over the world. This is where he gave the infamous “I have a dream” speech.
“I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” — Martin Luther King, Jr. / “I Have A Dream” speech, August 28, 1963
On April 3, 1968 King Jr. gave his last speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” in support of the labour strike by Memphis sanitation workers. During the speech, King Jr. told his supporters, “I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!
And so I’m happy, tonight.
I’m not worried about anything.
I’m not fearing any man!
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!”
He was assassinated the next day by James Earl Ray who was a shooter, a malcontent drifter and a former convict. James was later sentenced to 99 years in Prison. King Jr.’s death caused riots and violent protests by the mourners in more than 100 cities across the country at the loss of their beloved leader.
Martin was awarded for his achievements for his name to be forever remembered in the history of America. King Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 “the first person in the Western world to have shown us that a struggle can be waged without violence.” King Jr. was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award a civilian American could get. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill to create Martin Luther King Junior day on 21st January, a national holiday in all 50 states of America to honour King Jr.’s legacy of equality and non-violence.