King first came across discrimination, aged six, when he and a white friend were sent to different schools. Aged 14, King was forced to give up his bus seat for a white passenger on a ride home from Georgia. He had just won an oratory contest, with a speech about equal rights. This humiliating episode spurred him on to confront the injustice of segregation. Although America abolished slavery in , there was widespread economic and social inequality — in life expectancy was 64 for whites and 53 for non-whites.
In the South segregation was enforced in schools, restaurants and many other places. At 15 King followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather to attend Morehouse College, which was accepting younger students. Here King discovered the writings of Henry David Thoreau and became fascinated by his ideas of non-violent resistance. Inspired by his father and college president Benjamin Mays — a Baptist minister and influential advocate of racial equality — King was ordained into the ministry in After graduating he continued his training at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania and received his doctorate from Boston University's School of Theology in King met future wife Coretta Scott, a talented young singer, while in studying in Boston.
His father wanted him to marry into a more influential family but King was won over by Coretta's beauty and commitment to campaigning for social justice. They were married in How Rosa Parks influenced the civil rights movement.
In December Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery for refusing to move from her seat on a bus so a white man could sit down. King was chosen to lead an African-American bus boycott that eventually lasted days. News of this civil rights breakthrough spread and King became a household name in America. During the boycott Bayard Rustin, a prominent civil rights campaigner, tutored King and helped him commit to Gandhi's principle of non-violence as the way to resist authority.
King and the SCLC hoped to build on the success of Montgomery by expanding the bus boycotts across the south. But his plans were frustrated. In some places, the African-American population was too small to make a boycott effective. In others, whites quickly gave in to demands to forestall a protest movement developing.
Race and Racism Songs
Elsewhere, whites allowed their bus services to go bankrupt and fail rather than desegregate. Seeking inspiration abroad King travelled to India to learn more about Gandhi's non-violent protest movement. He was struck by the parallels between India's treatment of members of the Untouchable caste and the treatment of African-Americans in the US. King returned home determined to translate non-violence into social change.
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Yet his protests in Albany, Georgia, in , were unsuccessful. The police did not confront the marchers but tried to diffuse the situation — starving the cause of valuable national publicity.
King was imprisoned as a result. While incarcerated, he wrote the Letter from Birmingham Jail, a defence of non-violent direct action. In contrast to Albany, the city authorities used violence to break up the protests, deploying high-pressure fire hoses and police dogs against the demonstrators. Now an icon of the civil rights movement, King was invited to the White House where President Kennedy endorsed his cause. A huge crowd of , people amassed at the Lincoln Memorial and millions more watched on television as King put forward his vision of a day when freedom and equality would be achieved in America.
King's words resonated across the world, becoming symbolic of the civil rights struggle and are still widely quoted today. King also spoke of the economic gulf between black and white and the poverty that many African-Americans faced in the USA.
Less than a month after King's I Have A Dream speech white supremacists bombed a Birmingham church killing four young girls. There was a huge public outcry and King was himself devastated by this act of violence. Corresponding Author: carissa. First Page Full Text.
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