Martin Luther King Jr. was a leader, activist and intelligent man, and although his death came much too soon, he is still remembered by many for all of his valiant efforts and achievements. Martin Luther King Jr. Day occurs on a Monday every mid-January, and instead of looking at this day as a day to be off work or school, use it as a day to remember some of MLK’s greatest leadership moments.
Letter from a Birmingham Jail
In the midst of the civil rights movement, a Circuit Judge in Alabama ruled that any boycotts or protests regarding racism or discrimination would not be tolerated, and anyone in violation of the law would be arrested. Major civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr. stated they would not obey the law, and on April 12, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. was forcibly arrested. His conditions in jail were not any better, and he saw a newspaper article written by white clergymen talking about how MLK needed to back down his efforts. Martin Luther King Jr. decided to write a response, which is now known as the Letter from a Birmingham Jail, that his (and others) efforts for racial equality used nonviolent measures, and that the issue of peace and equality could easily be solved without violence.
March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
During the 1960s, African Americans were fighting hard for their equality. Although slavery was abolished 100 years before the 1960s, civilization was finding it hard to accept that blacks and whites were equal. On August 28, 1963, more than 250,000 protested in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. At the time, it was the largest protest ever to occur in the nation’s capital, and it received a great deal of national news coverage. Martin Luther King Jr. attended the event and represented his coalition, Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
The March on Washington asked for the elimination of segregation in schools, a public works program that would provide jobs, a law that prohibited discrimination in job placement, and a minimum wage. The March on Washington is now known as the catalyst for all the civil rights movements to follow.
I Have a Dream Speech
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom showcased many different speakers, but Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech was one of the most loved, influential and quoted speeches of the movement. In the speech, MLK talks about a dream he has of a world in which racism no longer exists. King speaks about how hatred and racism hurt the world, and how equality could change the world for the better.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
Thanks to the courage and drive of Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders, the United States government passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act outlawed discrimination against racial, sexual, religious and ethnic backgrounds. Because of the act, racial segregation in schools was abolished, and discrimination in the workplace was also prohibited. Individuals could no longer lose out on job opportunities based on the color of their skin or their beliefs, and the segregation of bathrooms was also prohibited in the workplace.
Voting Rights Act of 1965
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was the next major event in the Civil Rights movement. Because of this bill, everyone, no matter his or her race, sex, or religious background, was given the opportunity to vote. There were no longer any voting qualifications that had to be met in order to vote.
Montgomery Bus Boycott
Although many changes had been made to support civil rights and equality, racial segregation and discrimination was still occurring throughout the nation. In Montgomery, Alabama, the public transit system would not support the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and still supported racial segregation on their rail service. The idea of the boycott stemmed from the arrest of Rosa Parks, who was arrested for not giving up her seat to a white person while riding the bus. The following morning, Martin Luther King Jr. suggested to his churchgoers that they boycott the rail system in protest. The Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted from December 1, 1955 through December 20, 1956, when the US Supreme Court ruled that Montgomery’s segregation was unconstitutional.
This year, we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of many of the civil rights movements, including the March on Washington. As we reflect on this moments that forever changed history, use it also as a time to think back on one of the most influential men who helped shape the world into what it is today.
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Terri Walker is a freelance writer, a podcast enthusiast and a busy wife and mother. Rather than listening to talk-radio, Terri loads her iphone with her favorite podcasts for convenient listening while on the go.