Martin Luther King Jr. And The Civil Rights Movement
Gandhi's campaigns became the inspiration and model for the U.S. CIVIL RIGHTS and political
movements in the 1950s and 1960s. Among those inspired was MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. King was born in Atlanta on January 15, 1929, the son of a Baptist preacher. His Baptist upbringing was supplemented by the study of theology at Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, where he was introduced to the nonviolent teachings of Gandhi.
In 1955, King became involved with the first great pacifist movement in the United States, the African American CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT. He eventually spearheaded that movement. On December 1, ROSA PARKS, a black Montgomery resident, refused to surrender her seat on a bus to a white man. Her subsequent arrest for violating SEGREGATION laws sparked a boycott of the Montgomery transit system led by King and the black activists of the Montgomery Improvement Association. The boycott lasted over one year, until the Montgomery city government abolished segregation on buses. King's leadership had helped effect political change without the use of violence, and he resolved to build on the success.
In the late 1950s, King organized the SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE (SCLC). The SCLC operated as a network for civil rights work and a platform from which to address the nation and the world. Armed only with fortitude, the moral rightness of a cause, and an exceptional gift for public speaking, King was able to garner widespread support for a
series of popular campaigns that led to the end of official discrimination and segregation in the southern United States.
The influence of Gandhi on King was apparent. At the core of King's philosophy was nonviolence, but this pacifism was buttressed by action. Like Gandhi, King directed much of his energy toward the organization of nonviolent campaigns designed to call attention to social injustice. The campaigns did not always win the hearts and minds of other U.S. citizens. Occasionally, King and fellow civil rights activists suffered from the violence of their opponents.
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