Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
A hero is a person who is courageous and is willing to sacrifice himself/herself even when under enormous risk for the common good of other people. Thus, this individual is considered a warrior who defends and protects other people’s rights regardless of the danger posed by the circumstances. As such, a hero represents a certain struggle and is often depicted undergoing different trials to test his/her resolve to the cause. In these instances, the adversaries try to weaken this character but are unsuccessful. Rather, the latter is emboldened to continue the fight. Moreover, the image portrayed is that of an ordinary person who quickly rises to lead others in extraordinary circumstances and does not stop until victory is achieved. According to any heroic narrative, there have to be skeptics who doubt the viability of the cause as well as fervent supporters who fuel the campaign (Leslie and Walski 78). While these opposing forces do occasionally clash, it is always the hero’s responsibility to rally the believers and engage them in acts aimed at enhancing the ideology’s credibility thereby setting them on a victory course. Martin Luther King Jr. is the hero for the civil rights movement, which despite several challenges, managed to galvanize the nation around race issues using non-violent tactics and set precedence for the end of racial discrimination.
Mr. King is revered in the African American community due to his visionary leadership of the introduction and running of the civil rights movement that entrenched non-discrimination in the United States Constitution. Hence, he is regarded as the pioneer of non-violent assembly of citizens and a crusader of human rights who slightly improved cultural integration perceptions within the American society. In addition, he is seen as the first person to implore other people to reflect about the common humanity shared by all citizens as a mode of embracing each other rather than destroying the physical, psychological, and emotional well-being of one another (Bruni and Senna 53)
He is viewed as an icon in this freedom struggle because he emerged as the face of the revolution. In fact, his name is synonymous with this movement. Similarly, he was a good orator who could move masses using carefully chosen words that influenced the thinking of his listeners as well as critics. Sometimes, these speeches were laden with scriptural anecdotes that broadened his appeal and helped to reinforce his support base across the country. Furthermore, he was a shrewd community organizer who knew how to pull massive rallies that drew national attention thereby cementing his status as a powerful crusader for black empowerment. Moreover, he did not shy away from controversial confrontations with the administration and law enforcement agencies even when the lives of participants in such marches were at risk. This endeared him to the minorities thus providing him with a fanatical following countrywide.
Dr. King was a mere Baptist minister when he partnered with Joseph Lowery, Ralph Abernathy and Fred Shuttlesworth to form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference whose objective was to build a support network for articulating civil rights issues. Having led this association until his sudden death, it managed to give him prominence despite the presence of other well educated and politically connected individuals. This serves to show that he was a unique personality within that era that could outmaneuver better-qualified candidates for a vital position in an important forum. As such, it was encouraging to the several young, black men most of whom had been slaves to know that they too could hope for a better future because he embodied that spirit. While his rise was unpredictable, he managed to muster the temperament and negotiating skills that forced the government to give in to his demands and by extension those of his community. He also demonstrated a genuine desire to empathize with his fellow supporters by not abandoning them even in the face of arrests (Birt 122). Consequently, he was a victim of many incarcerations, all of which were in solidarity with fellow citizens advocating for an end to segregation. By so doing, he was being defiant to the government and white oppressors who were the beneficiaries of the inequalities present. His willingness to be jailed expressed the conviction to tolerate harsh treatment for the sake of ending the injustice meted out on African Americans. In fact, this did not dampen his resolve. Rather, he was able to lead further civil disobedience activities through intermediaries while engaging in other stunts to draw attention and increase pressure on the perpetrators to end their suffering under Jim Crow rules. It is evident that actions such as jailing and beatings from police officers were employed to intimidate them into submission and an abandonment of their quest.
However, King’s determination to undergo this torture based on his belief of a future solution to their problems shows that he was committed to defending the right of African Americans to equal and fair treatment in the United States. His own psychological, emotional, and physical torture from the arrests and attacks on his home were sacrifices that he embraced for the universal delivery of justice to marginalized groups. According to him, these actions were vital in pushing their agenda to ensure that they succeeded at all costs. Likewise, he devoted a great deal of his time traveling to volatile regions especially the South to offer moral and material support to other protesters despite the inherent risks of arrest, assault or even death to his life. This was a clear illustration of his bravery. At the time, such behavior was met with hostility from rival organizations. For example, the Klu Klux Klan, the government, and even the white community were against his ideology. He understood the precarious conditions that he would face once he toured various regions. Similarly, he was aware of the backlash that had been generated among wealthy and powerful white politicians as well as their constituents. He was also averse with the numerous death threats that had been issued to him as well as the ominous plot by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to eliminate him as a means of curtailing the civil rights movement. Nevertheless, he did not shy away from visiting different parts of the country including racial hotspots to articulate his non-violent approach to ending color-based discrimination (Bolden and Adelman 47). In fact, he always found a way to rebel against his perceived enemies while maintaining control of his followers. This fearlessness was instrumental in forcing President Lyndon Baynes Johnson to compromise and enact the Voting Rights Act into law. It also influenced the end of segregation in public schools as well as the repeal of a law barring women to vote. By being principled and ready to suffer bodily harm for the sake of equality in human treatment in various aspects of life, he was able to fight for the freedom of marginalized people and guarantee the respect of their civil liberties.
Standoffs became common and King was briefly arrested in Birmingham in 1963 after fierce confrontations with law enforcement personnel under the command of Eugene “Bull” Connor. Likewise, on March 7, 1965, police officers and a mob violently attacked protestors in what was referred to as bloody Sunday. Still, he urged and led demonstrations across various cities while delivering speeches that made an impassioned plea to legislate basic civil rights, increase the minimum wage, and desegregate public spaces. Consequently, his bold, ambitious, and highly successful august 28, 1963 march for jobs and freedom in Washington D.C. despite the heightened threat level showed that he was a visionary leader, capable of liberating people from their struggles. It also marked his dedication to the mission, which is a reflection of his heroic status within the American culture.
Some historians have pointed out that Martin Luther King Jr. was not the pioneer of the civil rights movement. They refer to some of the earlier works of people such as Booker T. Washington and other well-known personalities as being the ones who introduced this phenomenon to the nation. Similarly, others prefer to credit the entrenchment of the rights of minorities to President Johnson for having signed the bill into law. According to them, the president could have vetoed the bill and thus continue the practice of segregation throughout the country. Consequently, they argue that he deserves greater recognition. Likewise, some of them are quick to credit other regional leaders under the umbrella of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference due to their intense involvement to organize protests in their respective jurisdictions.
All the leaders who worked with Dr. King made immense contributions towards advancement of blacks in America. However, he is the one who used his charismatic nature to coordinate the movement’ activities nationwide and helped to solicit for funds to finance their activities from likeminded groups. In addition, his rhetoric resonated with millions of people and thus thrust him into the limelight (Bolden and Adelman 16). Furthermore, there was a broad consensus that he was the mot suitable to lead the charge for equality because of the non-violent stance of his manifesto as compared to the brutal reactions suggested by other members. The vast support network can be attributed to his coalition building skills that enhanced the reach of the organization as well as provided diversity to the cause in move that won the struggle more sympathizers. Likewise, he cultivated closer links with the establishment in a bid to lobby for the adoption of their demands and this venture became successful when they were made into law. Hence, he was a transformational figure that managed to blend his intellect with the youthful demeanor to rally Americans of all lifestyles to a cause that captured the nation’s psyche and eventually recognized the need to treat other races as equal. By so doing, he became a hero to the marginalized communities in the United States and around the world. Despite his assassination on March 29, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, he is regarded as one of the most iconic Americans and a prophetic voice due to the election of the first African American president, Barack Obama that stemmed from his “I have a dream” speech.
Birt, Robert. The Liberatory Thought of Martin Luther King Jr: Critical Essays on the Philosopher King. Lanham, Md: Lexington Books, 2012. Print.
Bolden, Tonya, and Bob Adelman. M.l.k: Journey of a King. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2006. Print.
Bruni, Luigino, and Barbara Sena. The Charismatic Principle in Social Life. London: Routledge, 2012. Print.
Leslie, Tonya, and Tina Walski. Martin Luther King, Jr: A Life of Fairness. Minneapolis, MN: Bellwether Media, 2008. Print.
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