Brief Profile: Martin Luther King Jr.

by Duke Magazine

Michael King Jr., popularly known as Martin Luther King, was an American activist, notable for his astute outspokenness as the leader of the Civil Rights Movement from 1955 until his death. 

King piloted the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, and later became the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). He was also the tool employed to organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his popular “I Have a Dream” golden speech on the floors of the Lincoln Memorial. 

In pursuance of his equitable stances in all premise of human existence, he expanded his tentacle of opposition activism into capitalism, poverty, and Vietnam War. 

King was a crusader of social justice, racial equality, peace in his life time. To this feat, he won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance.

In his bid to bridge the gap between the rich and poor social classes in the United States, he was then planning a huge rally called “Poor People’s Campaign” in Washington D.C., and unfortunately got assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Sequel to his murder, the ill-fated incidence caused an unrest in many U.S. cities, thereby throwing the black communities into frenzy.

King is dead albeit, but his legacy lives on both in the United States and the international communities.

Some days after his assassination, the US Congress passed the Civil Rights Acts of 1968. Title VIII of the Act, commonly known as the Fair Housing Act, prohibited discrimination in housing and housing-related transactions on the basis of race, religion, or national origin (later expanded to include sex, familial status, and disability). This legislation was seen as a tribute to King’s struggle in his final years to combat residential discrimination in the U.S.

On the international scale, King’s legacy had deep influences on african consciousness movement and in South Africa’s civil right movement, Irish civil right movements, among others.

In 1983, U.S former president Ronald Reagan, signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor King. Observed for the first time on January 20, 1986, it is called Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Following President George H.W. Bush’s accented proclamation in 1992, the holiday is observed on the third Monday of January each year. On January 17, 2000, for the first time, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was officially observed in all fifty U.S. states.

King is seen as a metaphor of civil right and social equity across the world, who got inspired from his christian beliefs and the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi.

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