Becoming King: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Making of a National Leader (Civil Rights and Struggle)

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Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! Just three weeks after the march, King returned to the difficult realities of the struggle by eulogizing three of the girls killed in the bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Still, his televised triumph at the feet of Lincoln brought favorable exposure to his movement, and eventually helped secure the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of The following year, after the violent Selma to Montgomery march in Alabama, African Americans secured another victory with the Voting Rights Act of Over the final years of his life, King continued to spearhead campaigns for change even as he faced challenges by increasingly radical factions of the movement he helped popularize.

The Library of Congress added the speech to the National Recording Registry in , and the following year the National Park Service dedicated an inscribed marble slab to mark the spot where King stood that day. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute. March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. National Park Service. JFK, A.

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Philip Randolph and the March on Washington. The White House Historical Association. The Lasting Power of Dr. The New York Times. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! What did he believe, and what role would he play in the growing activism of the civil rights movement of the s? Using the sharp lens of Montgomery's struggle for racial equality to investigate King's burgeoning leadership, Jackson explores King's ability to connect with the educated and the unlettered, professionals and the working class. Nixon, a middle-aged Pullman porter and head of the local NAACP chapter; and Virginia Durr, a courageous white woman who bailed Rosa Parks out of jail after Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white person.

Jackson offers nuanced portrayals of King's relationships with these and other civil rights leaders in the community to illustrate King's development within the community. Drawing on countless interviews and archival sources, Jackson compares King's sermons and religious writings before, during, and after the Montgomery bus boycott. Jackson demonstrates how King's voice and message evolved during his time in Montgomery, reflecting the shared struggles, challenges, experiences, and hopes of the people with whom he worked. Many studies of the civil rights movement end analyses of Montgomery's struggle with the conclusion of the bus boycott and the establishment of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Jackson surveys King's uneasy post-boycott relations with E. Nixon and Rosa Parks, shedding new light on Parks's plight in Montgomery after the boycott and revealing the internal discord that threatened the movement's hard-won momentum. Ministers were among the few blacks whose jobs were not financially dependent on whites.

Martin Luther King, Jr.: Leader of the 20th Century Civil Rights Movement - Biography

They were therefore economically less vulnerable to reprisals. Black churches provided crucial community focal points and information networks as they were among the few institutions entirely owned and controlled by blacks. Black churches formed bases for mass meetings and added religious sanction and resolve to collective action. With the NAACP increasingly becoming the focus of a white backlash after the Brown decision and branch membership declining under sustained white harassment, the emergence of black church leadership in Montgomery was a timely new development.

Just as the momentum was moving its way, local NAACP branches were at their weakest, and so the responsibility of sustaining the movement now fell to the clergy. Following the bus boycott, King became president of a new civil rights organisation, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference SCLC , whose aim it was to combine and co-ordinate black church networks across the South.

When King and MIA leaders met with white officials they were disappointed. The MIA issued only three modest demands: a modified system of segregation on buses, which meant that black passengers would not be forced to stand; better treatment from white bus drivers; and the hiring of black bus drivers on predominantly black routes.


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White officials rejected their proposals outright. From that point the boycott spiralled. As blacks became more determined not to concede their demands, whites became even more determined not to give in to them.

Project MUSE - Becoming King

King increasingly became the focus of attention. Although he only spent a short time in jail before making bail, the arrest shook him. He had become a marked man. Later that night, unable to sleep, King went to his kitchen to make coffee. He prayed for the strength to continue. The moment had a profound impact on King.

His leadership was no longer just a matter of civic responsibility; it had become a religious calling. He rushed to the scene to find that no-one had been seriously injured.

A visionary leader

The day after the bombing the MIA filed a lawsuit demanding the desegregation of city buses in Montgomery. Withlittle sign of compromise the dispute had escalated from modest demands for reform to an all-out strike on segregation. As the dispute was played out in the courts, the boycott continued.

MLK’s Enduring Legacy

Blacks were determined not to return to the buses until the courts ruled in their favour, and their stance began to attract national attention. Another visitor to his home was shocked to find armed men standing guard and loaded weapons lying around. Historian David Garrow has argued that this understanding evolved in two stages. This placed pressure on segregation through direct action tactics such as sit-ins and demonstrations.

King would continually develop the idea of non-violence and its practical uses throughout his life. The legal process in the Montgomery case took almost a year to reach its conclusion. After white city officials had exhausted the appeals process, they were served with papers to desegregate on 20 December. The next morning, King was one of the first passengers to board an integrated bus. King said that he was. The story did not end there. Whites waged a campaign of violence to try to dissuade black passengers from travelling on integrated buses.

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