Friday, January 19, 2007

Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King He Dreamt of A Better Tomorrow

It all happened in December 1, 1955 at Montgomery, capital of Alabama –notorious for wide spread racism at that time. Rose Parks a teenaged girl (black skinned) was traveling in a crowded bus. Suddenly the driver of the bus approached her and asked her to vacate her seat for a white passenger. The girl refused to oblige and consequently she was got arrested for the “offence she committed”.

This incident drew much public attention. Martin Luther King Jr (1929-1968). was at that time a priest in the Dexter Avenue Church of the Baptist order. King was an admirer of Mahatma Gandhi and the principles of non-violence practiced by Gandhi greatly attracted him. (Mohandas Gandhi was similarly subjected to such treatments in South Africa – he was thrown out of a 1st class compartment even though he had a proper ticket).

As a young man Martin Luther King was much moved by the turn of the events relating to Rose Park incident and he sprung in to action. Taking a leaf out of Gandhi, King formed an organization by name S.C.L.P. (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) initiated a non-violence based “bus boycott” movement.

King educated his followers regarding the power of non-violence and insisted that the agitation should never take a course of violence in achieving their goal. The boycott lasted for about a whole year and withdrawn only after the U. S. Supreme court ruling banning segregation in all walks of life came in to effect.

Martin Luther King was born in Atlanta in January 15, 1929. His father Rev. Martin Luther King (Senior) popularly known as “Daddy King” was a priest of the Baptist order and his mother was Mrs. Alberta Williams King. Martin Luther King’s (his original name was Michael) education was at More House College and took his degree (B.A. Sociology) in 1948. He completed his education with a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology in 1955.

The Rose Park incident literally catapulted a priest in to the center stage of the conflicts those were taking place in America between the blacks and some of the racist elements. There were many whites who actively took part in the struggles for the end of apartheid. The SCLP could raise the segregation as the most prominent issue in the 1960 election.

Majority of the blacks were used to oppression and neglect from their birth, segregation was accepted as a way of life. It was the stirring speeches which made them understand, in what state they were actually in, they were recognizing the truth through King and it was the truth which liberated them from the shackles of subordination. The blacks started to see a savior in King and King lived up to their expectations. The fiery orator as he was stirred the emotions of the audience as never before. A priest was thus getting transformed in to an activist for a cause.

Martin Luther King was one of the six leaders who led the historical rally to Washington on March, 1963 demanding jobs and freedom for the “disadvantaged Americans”. Mr. Roy Wilkins (leader NAACP), Whitney Young (Urban League), Philip Randolf (Brother hood of the sleeping car porters), John Lewis (SNCC), and James Farmer (Congress for Racial Equality) were the others who led the rally. The congregation assembled was the largest Washington has ever seen. In which King delivered the “I have a dream” speech. That was not just a speech; it was a work of art, delivered in a masterly style.

In all those days of conflicts Martin Luther King was rising to the status of an icon among the unprivileged but his counselor Mr. Beyard Rustin was getting immersed in to more and more controversies. His opinion about homosexuality, democratic socialism, and his association with the communist party of USA etc was doing much damage to Martin Luther King neglected his well wishers’ advices to keep distance from Rustin.

It was perhaps the stand taken by King about America’s involvement in Vietnam war made him most controversial. The FBI also started to observe King for his close association with some communists like Beyard Rustin. His phone was frequently tapped to check of any antinational activity.

In 7th March, 1965 a march from Selma to Montgomery was attempted but that ended in clash with the police and that day came to be known as “Bloody Sunday”. A second attempt for the march two days after the first (which would have turned even more bloody was stopped by King as his mark of nonviolence.

Martin Luther King was gaining popularity as well earning enemies all the way. His house at Montgomery was bombed and regularly was in receipt of life threatening calls. King was undeterred by all these and he was strongly demanding the American Government to spent fifty billion dollars for ten years to the welfare of the under privileged for the historical wrongs it has committed for centuries.

The year 1964 saw Martin Luther King getting the Nobel Prize; he was the youngest man to receive the coveted prize for peace. The award of Nobel Prize raised King to a real power to reckon with and his opinions (some of them very controversial) arose to the most powerful ones of the whole world.

The black sanitary workers at Memphis at Tennessee affiliated to the AFSCME were on strike since March 12 and King had an invitation to visit the striking workers. Martin Luther King visited Memphis to assure support and to boost the morale of the striking employees.

While standing at the balcony of a hotel he was shot at and brought at St. Joseph’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead. It was nine past six pm April 14th 1968. More than three hundred thousand people attended his funeral.

One man by name James Earl Ray was arrested in connection with the incident. Mr. Ray’s involvement in this case is not admitted by independent agencies as Mr. Ray was only a small time thief and never involved in racial attacks or slander. Ray later jumped jail on June 10 and was recaptured on June 13. His motive for the crime was also not established beyond doubt. Most of the fingers point towards the FBI as King’s growing clout and some of his associations were for them a big problem.

Perhaps the FBI would not have been aware that King was solving the image problem America faced and not making them. Now for the greatness of Martin Luther King, America can stand its head raised on any stage where human rights are discussed. But for him it would have been very pathetic for the great nation. Jacke White has rightly said it perhaps the FBI would not have heard it.

“He led a mass struggle for racial equality that doomed the segregation and changed America for ever.”

Martin Luther changed the face of the United States; he gave a much improved and refined image so that it could stand with raised head among other ones as the fair freedom’s open door.

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