19 A Freedom Fighter
74 MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. (1)
Martin Luther King, Jr., who won
the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, was an important political leader in the USA.
He fought for political rights for black people in the USA. By doing this he
set an example to the rest of the world. The message he gave was that black
people should not be separated but should be treated as well as other people,
and with complete respect.
King was born in 1929 in Atlanta,
Georgia, in the southeast of the US, the son of a minister in the church. As a
boy, he enjoyed basketball, tennis and especially football. He spent a lot of
time talking and reading and delivered a paper round to earn some money. He
liked making friends and disliked fighting in any form. At the age of 15 he
won an entrance prize to a college in one of the northern states. There black
people had equal rights and were free to live, study and work as they wished.
In 1948 he left college to be a minister in the church. At this time in the
southern states, blacks were not treated as equal citizens. Although slavery
had been ended in the US in 1865, the southern states had passed their own
laws to continue the separation of blacks and whites. Mixed race marriages
were forbidden by law. There were separate sections for blacks in shops,
restaurants, hospitals, buses and trains. Black children were educated in
separate schools. The money spent on educating a black child was just one
fourth of that spent on each white child. Black people had no right to vote in
the southern states. If they wished to, they had to pass a reading test.
King continued his studies from
1948-1951 in Philadelphia, on the east coast of the USA. All his life he
believed that it was right and necessary to demand changes in society if
people did not have their civil rights. He believed that they could achieve
their goal by peaceful revolution, not by fighting and killing. In his
lifetime, he forced the government to liberate the blacks in the USA and give
them equal rights.
In 1964 King received the Nobel Prize for
Peace. He gave the whole of the $54,600 prize to the freedom movement. In 1964
a new Civil Rights Act
was passed. Any organization that
received money from the US government had to treat blacks equally. In 1965 a
new Voting Rights Bill became law. From then on, all black people had the
right to vote.
King had made many enemies because of his work
in the black liberation movement. Once, a bomb exploded and destroyed his
house. On April 4th, 1968, he was murdered. However, his struggle had already
changed the whole of society in the USA. Within a few years of his death,
black people across the country held important jobs in government. Many blacks
work as managers, lawyers, teachers, bankers, broadcasters and newspaper
Lesson 75 MARTIN
LUTHER KING, JR. (2)
On December 1, 1955, a black
woman, Rosa Parks, got on a bus in Alabama and sat down in the
"Whites-only" section. She refused to move and was taken away by the
police. A group was formed to demand that the bus company should change its
unfair practices and King was made president. Four thousand papers were sent
round the town, which said, "When you go to work, take a taxi, or share a
ride, or walk." For a whole year, black people refused to take the city
buses. King called for black people not to give in but to continue the
struggle. His own house was destroyed and for some time his life was in
danger. In the end government lawyers in the capital said that the bus company
did not have the right to separate blacks from whites on its buses.
In 1963 King met President
Kennedy and asked for new civil rights laws to give blacks equal rights. King
then led a new revolution in Birmingham, Alabama. The housing condition for
blacks in Birmingham was bad and there were few jobs for blacks. Only 25 % of
them could vote. King was put in prison, saying, "W have waited 340 years
for our rights!" The struggle continued and after a week the prisons were
full. One day the police even used their sticks during a peaceful march by
blacks, and this was seen across the whole country on TV. The blacks'
revolution won a nationwide support. In the end public places were opened to
blacks and all the black marchers who had been put in prison were set free.
On August 28, 1963 King made a speech to
thousands of black people that immediately became world-famous. He spoke
without notes and told the crowd of listeners how he saw the future. He used
the phrase "I have a dream" many times. He said, "I have a
dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and
the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table
of brotherhood.... I have a dream that my four little children will one day
live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but
by the content of their character."