Part 3: The BiographyMartin Luther King Jr.By: Kamsi OkpalugoMartin Luther King Jr. (Born Michael King Junior), was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. He was the second son of a pastor, Martin Luther King Sr., and Alberta Williams King, a retired schoolteacher. Along with his older sister Christine, and younger brother Alfred, he grew up in the city’s “Sweet” Auburn neighbourhood, which was home to some of the most prosperous African Americans in the country. As a gifted student he attended segregated public schools; King attended David T. Howard Elementary School, then Booker T. Washington High School, where he was quarterback of the football team. In 1945, at the age of fifteen, he entered Atlanta’s Moorhouse College, where he studied medicine and law. Although he had no intentions on continuing in his father’s footsteps, he changed his mind under the influence of Dr. Benjamin Mays, a theologian and outspoken advocate for racial equality. After graduating in 1948, he entered the Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, where he earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree. He was also awarded a prestigious fellowship and was elected president of his predominantly white senior class. Dr. King then enrolled in a graduate program at Boston University, completing his work in 1953 and earning a doctorate in systematic theology two years later. While in Boston, he met a woman named Coretta Scott. She was a young singer from Alabama who was studying at the New England Conservatory of Music. They got married in 1953 and settled in Montgomery, Alabama, where King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. They had four children: Yolanda Denise King, Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott King, and Bernice Albertine King. He was assassinated and killed by James Earl Ray on April 4th, 1968, in Memphis Tennessee.I believe that his motivation was the fact that he believed each person has inherent dignity and worth. Even though black slaves were given their freedom, they were not treated truly as free people. They were not payed the same, nor were they allowed the same opportunities as white people. Blacks were still forced to use separate public facilities and schools from the ones reserved for whites; they suffered routine discrimination in employment and housing, as well as abuse from whites, and they were unable to exercise their right to vote. The whole purpose of his career, was to motivate his people to continue to protest, boycott, and fight until they were granted full equality and privileges that every human being deserves. He became the spokesperson in the Civil Rights Movement; a movement that helped secure equal access to opportunities, basic rights, and privileges for African-Americans. He also helped organize non-violent protests in Birmingham, Alabama. He organized a march in Washington, where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. His speech served to focus on the need for racial equality NOW, not later in the future or sometime down the road. King knew how to motivate people; he knew how to talk to the authorities and he wouldn’t ask people to do things he wouldn’t do himself. His motivation was the people. Martin Luther King, Jr. was motivated by his desire to see all people treated as equals without discriminatory practices. He saw an injustice in America, and his dedication to the cause grew when he had children and envisioned a race-free future for them. He didn’t want his children to grow up in a world where they will be constantly looked down upon, simply because of their race. King believed in the possibility of an environment where the systemic racism that plagued the country, will be demolished; so, he joined the fight. He believed in the sacredness of human life. In the beginning of the course, we learned that being human means possessing inner dignity and being created in the image of God. King worked hard to preserve this dignity for black people in America. His nonviolent teaching ways, were still able to get the attention of the authorities and his movements had a lot of success. The civil rights movement made segregation and discrimination illegal and banned employment discrimination based on race, religion, sex, or national origin. King played a huge role in society because he was a born leader. He was intelligent in the fact that he was able to lead the African-Americans in a non-violent way. King’s protests never involved any means of violence, in fact, he was only arrested for misdemeanour offenses. An important part of his vision was that he refused to use violent actions and he encouraged his followers to do the same. Based on his principles of Gandhi, his behaviour was a major influence on society at the time which allowed him to gain attention and respect. Martin Luther King was also majorly responsible for the passing of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act for African Americans. Both acts changed American law so that African Americans could not be treated differently from whites. His victories in these two areas had a major impact on the United States and the world. Because of his commitment to peace, non-violence and equality for all, his protests on behalf of civil rights were able to make genuine change in American society. Even as his persecutors exercised force and brutality, King’s insistence on avoiding violence, was a major factor in the respect and acknowledgment given to the civil rights movement at the time. For example, in Montgomery, King led a boycott against city buses that refused to let blacks sit in the front seats of the bus. It led to a citywide boycott of the bus system until the rules were changed; the racist law allowing the segregation aboard the buses was changed. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom, by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” This quote by Dr. King, demonstrates that he was willing to fight for freedom through positivity and promoting justice.  Although he wasn’t Catholic, Martin Luther King Jr. used a lot of Catholic references in his teachings. Most of his teachings relate to the Principles of Catholic Social Teachings. The Catholic social teachings, are the Catholic beliefs on matters of human dignity and common good in society. One of these, is The Dignity of the Human Person. This states that every person, regardless of gender, race, age, nationality, religion, or economic status, deserves respect. Our dignity doesn’t come from what we have, or what we do; it comes from God as we are all children of God. King learned from his father when he was young, that every person is a child of God and therefore is infinitely valuable to God. However, he also knew that, because of slavery and the continued practice of racial discrimination, the sense of human dignity was deformed, and even lost, in large numbers of his people. He was devoted to helping to restore their lost sense of dignity. As a pastor and theological social ethicist, King believed God to be the fundamental source of human worth or dignity. People have inviolable worth because they are created, loved, and sustained by God. Another teaching that he often references, is Solidarity. The principle of solidarity reminds us that “we are our brothers and sisters keepers”. We are one human family, whatever our racial, ethnic, or ideological differences. Solidarity means loving our neighbour; love gives the power to make changes. It is also a very important theme, in his famous “I Have a Dream Speech”.  “One day right here in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. “With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, and to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day”. These lines from his speech, show that King believed that we are all one human family and he hoped that one day, we would realize that we are all brothers and sisters, regardless of differences. He said, that there is no gene for racism; it is learned, and anything you learn, can be unlearned. Solidarity is about valuing our fellow human beings and respecting who they are as individuals. Building a community that allows everyone to attain their full potential through each of us respecting each other’s dignity, rights and responsibilities would make the world a better place to live.

Author