Martin Luther King Jr.

Hi there, what’s up?

How is Winter quarter so far? I hope you guys are still holding on to your new year’s resolutions!

As you guys may know already, next Monday will be a national holiday (YES! NO SCHOOL!) as it is Martin Luther King Jr. day! No, I’m not talking about the German Martin Luther that led the Protestant Reformation, I’m talking about the Martin Luther that led the African-American Civil Rights Movement… Well, you might also know him as the ‘I Have A Dream’ speech guy.

MLK Jr. was actually born in a very religious family; his grandfather and father served as pastors of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, and MLK Jr. himself served as co-pastor. Long story short, he was a very intelligent young man, he was elected president of a predominantly white senior class, graduated from Boston University, and in Boston, he met the love of his life–Coretta Scott. Similarly, Coretta was also a very intelligent young woman, and together, they had two sons and two daughters.

MLK Jr., being such a strong worker for civil rights of black people, became a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He then climbed up the ranks and in December 1955 was appointed as leader of the first great black nonviolent demonstration–the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

So here’s the thing. Basically, in the past, black and white people were very segregated. Say you were a black person, and you got on the bus. The black people would have to occupy the seats in the rear while the white people were to occupy the seats in front. If more people board the bus, all the seats would eventually get occupied. Then, if a white person boards the bus, the black people occupying the front row would be asked to stand up so that the white people could sit down. But if a black person boards the bus, they would just be asked to stand up. In the end, they basically got fed up with it and said, “You know what? Fine. We’re not even going to take the bus anymore.” So they didn’t. The majority of the black community boycotted bus… that is, they stopped using the buses.

During the 382 days which the boycott lasted, the buses became essentially empty, and it had caused some economic distress because the buses aren’t earning as much money as they used to. The whites responded with violence; MLK Jr’s house along with several Baptist churches were firebombed. The black boycotters also received physical abuse. MLK Jr and 89 other boycott leaders were then indicted, but surprisingly, rather than waiting to be arrested, they just turned themselves in as an act of defiance. MLK Jr was then fined $500 and sentenced to 386 days in jail. In the end, he ended up serving only two weeks in jail, and furthermore, all these arrests and fines backfired on the whites and it ended up bringing attention to the demonstration.

So enough about the boycott, let’s get back to MLK Jr’s life story.

In 1957, he was elected as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. For the next eleven years of his life, he traveled all over America, gave speeches hundreds of times, wrote books as well as articles. He started gaining the attention of not only America, but also the entire world. He also led the peaceful march of 250,000 people on Washington DC where he delivered his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. (By the way, you can watch the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech right here. It’s a very well-written and well-read speech.) Throughout the eleven years, he also met with President John F. Kennedy, was arrested at least 20 times, he was assaulted, received five honorary degrees and was named Man of the Year by Time magazine. MLK Jr also received the Nobel Peace Prize, just at the age of thirty five! He was actually the youngest person to do so, and moreover, he decided to turn over the prize money of $54,123 to help his civil rights movement. What a noble man…

Sadly, MLK Jr’s life story ended quite tragically. He was assassinated while leading a protest march in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. It always pisses me off to see how good people die young. Don’t you think they deserve to live a happily-ever-after ending?

Anyway, hope you have a great 3-day weekend!

Indira

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