Essays On Martin Luther King Jr

Martin Luther King Jr. - The Dream of Equality Essay

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On August 28, 1963 a man delivered a message of hope from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. That man was Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., and with his powerful command of language, he turned his speech into much more. Because of Dr. King's eloquent use of the English language and his peaceful demonstrative tactics, his speech comes to life and affects a diverse audience.

In the beginning, he speaks of Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, he describes the lives, ."..of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice," (King). He could have simply said, "The Negro has been oppressed," but that wouldn't have been granted the profound impact that his words did. He speaks…show more content…

He insists that the freedoms they deserve and desire are attainable. He gained the support of numerous people, and had the public believing in his dream. Not everyone can inspire a nation with four words. And those words, no matter how small or insignificant, will always hold a greater meaning because of Dr. King. "I have a dream," (King).

Dr. King focuses heavily on peaceful demonstrating. "Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred," (King). In contrast to Malcolm X and other civil rights activists of the times, Dr. King was much more diplomatic in his protests. Instead of inciting violence, he demands, ."..meeting physical force with soul force," (King).

A speech is just words on paper until it is presented. The method of presentation is just as important as the content of the speech. Dr. King's booming voice echoed throughout Washington on the day of his speech, and he had everyone's attention. His use of descriptive language made his speech come to life. When he speaks of segregation, you can feel the pain in his voice. When he speaks of hope for the future, he inspires you to want to change the world.

Dr. King does an excellent job of appealing to everyone. He does not

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Martin Luther King, Jr. 1929–1968

American orator and essayist.

The following entry provides an overview of King's career.

King was the leader of the civil rights movement in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s. His nonviolent approach to social reform and political activism, characterized by mass marches and large gatherings designed to demonstrate both the widespread acceptance of the tenets of civil rights and the barbarism of those who opposed them, contrasted with the confrontational methods espoused by Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam. King's Letter from Birmingham City Jail (1963) and the 1963 speech in which he declared "I Have a Dream" are considered the written landmarks of the movement. Today they are counted among history's great statements of human rights.

Biographical Information

King was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and was raised in a middle-class family. Following the lead of his father and grandfathers, he pursued a theological education. He studied the works of Walter Rauschenbusch, who contended that the church must work to undo social injustices, and those of Mohandas K. Gandhi, who espoused a philosophy of nonviolence. In the fall of 1951 he began his doctoral studies at Boston University and received his Ph. D. in systematic theology in 1955. That same year he rose to prominence in the civil rights movement by organizing a protest in support of Rosa Parks, a black woman who was arrested in Alabama for sitting in a "whites only" section of a public bus. Near the end of 1962 he began working to desegregate Birmingham, Alabama. His leadership produced an agreement with the Justice Department that led to the desegregation of lunch counters, restrooms, fitting rooms, and drinking fountains. In 1963 King helped plan a massive march on Washington, D.C., where an estimated 250,000 people were on hand to hear him present his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. In 1964 King received the Nobel Peace Prize. His campaign for voting rights, concentrated in Selma, Alabama, was met with violence from both police and civilians and resulted in President Lyndon Johnson signing the 1965 Voting Rights Act into law. King continued his social campaigns until April 4, 1968, when he was assassinated by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee.

Major Works

King's written works reflect his heritage in the traditions of the southern black church as well as his knowledge of western philosophy. In Why We Can't Wait (1964), an account of his efforts to desegregate Birmingham, and Where Do We Go from Here? (1967), his response to the Black Power movement, King utilizes the Israelites' exodus from Egypt as a metaphor for the civil rights movement and suggests nonviolent solutions to the problem of social injustice. King further implements biblical theology, along with the philosophies of Gandhi and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, in Stride toward Freedom (1958), a discussion of the events leading up to the Montgomery bus boycott. In his "I Have a Dream" speech, King paints a vision of a "promised land" of justice and racial equality. In the celebrated Letter from Birmingham City Jail, a commentary directed at his critics, King again displays his sermonic style and use of biblical allusions and rhetoric. Reminiscent of St. Paul's writings, the Letter has been described by Stephen Oates as "a classic in protest literature, the most elegant and learned expression of the goals and philosophy of the nonviolent movement ever written." Wesley T. Mott also commends King for harnessing "the profound emotional power of the old Negro sermon for purposes of social action."

Critical Reception

Although often praised for their emotional power and widespread appeal, King's writings have been faulted for relying too heavily on rhetorical flourishes and for not offering concrete solutions to the social, political, and economic problems they address. In a review of Where Do We Go from Here? Andrew Kopkind commented that although King had worthy goals, he had "no real notion of how they are to be attained, or to what they may lead." In addition, nearly twenty-five years after his death, Clay-borne Carson—who had been engaged by King's widow, Coretta Scott King, to compile a collection of her husband's writings—announced that King may have plagiarized parts of his doctoral dissertation and other writings. These disclosures prompted scores of newspaper editorials and other responses arguing that the allegations had no bearing on King's contributions to the civil rights movement. In 1990 a New York Times editorial stated that King's "achievement glows unchallenged through the present shadow, [his] courage was not copied; and there was no plagiarism in his power."

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