Fact 21 : Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

Last but not least, and I did save the best for last, fact 20 goes to the courageous Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin was born in Atlanta, Georgia as Michael Luther King Jr, later on he changed his name to Martin. He graduated high school at the young age of 15 and started attending Morehouse College. He obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Sociology in 1948, then went on to Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, where he was valedictorian of his class in 1951. After his education there, he went to Boston University to obtain his Masters degree, then his doctorate’s degree, which he completed in 1955 at age 25. While at Boston, he met his future wife Coretta Scott. As he was finishing up his doctorate, he followed in his father and grandfather’s footsteps and became a pastor at a church called Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Also during that time, he became a member of the executive committee of the NAACP.

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In 1955, the local NAACP wanted to challenge the Montgomery bus policy and they had one case but due to the circumstances, they did not want to subject the 15 year old girl who was also pregnant and had refused to give up her seat. Then another opportunity came about when Rosa Parks had refused to give up her seat to a white man. Since Martin was the leader of the nonviolent demonstration, this was his first case to try out. He and the president of the local NAACP organized a city wide bus boycott. This meant that people would either carpool with others to get to their destination or even walk. After 382 of boycotting and the local transportation companies losing money, the Supreme Court ruled that “racial segregation in transportation was unconstitutional.”

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Shortly after the ruling, Martin was elected to become president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. This group helped conduct nonviolent protests in order to promote civil rights reform. The group also tried to press the issue on voting rights by getting African Americans registered to vote. As the leader, Martin traveled all over the United States and spoke over 2500 times to crowds where there was social injustice and discrimination. Martin had protested all over and was arrested a few times because of not leaving businesses.

One of his biggest protests was in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963; that caught attention nationwide because pictures were taken , and it was brutal; blacks were assaulted by dogs and water hoses. Martin, along with several other protesters were arrested and that is what prompted his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail.” Later that year Martin organized a massive protest in Washington, D.C combined with other organizations asking for peaceful change. The march was also for equal jobs and freedom and it drew over 200,000 people. This “March on Washington” is where Martin delivered his famous “I have a Dream” speech.

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Martin was named “Man of the Year” by Time magazine in 1963 and the following year, he was the youngest person to win a Nobel Peace Prize. That same year, another accomplishment that Martin was part of was Congress passing the Civil Rights Acts; without Martin protesting around the country, it was have prolonged. The Civil Right Acts eliminated legal racial segregation in the United States. The act made it illegal to discriminate against blacks or any other minorities in education, transportation, hiring and public accommodations. In 1965, Congress also passed the Voting Rights Act, that eliminated barriers that blacks had to overcome just to vote. That same year, another march in Selma led to violence when protesters marched from Selma and attempted to march to Montgomery but they were stopped at the Edmond Pettus bridge by police officials and were attacked. The attacked was televised and the world saw it. Martin was not there but for the future marches, he planned to be in attendance.

photo credit: history.com

 

On April 4, 1968 Martin’s life was taken  when he was outside his hotel room on a balcony, when James Earl Ray shot his with a stray bullet and killed him. His murder angered a lot of people and even sparked a few riots. His killer was sentenced to 99 years in prison and he died in 1998 while there.

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Martin’s courageous acts and leadership skills have helped shaped America today. Even though, us African Americans still deal with racism and discrimination, it isn’t nearly as bad as it was when Martin was alive. He will forever be memorized as a leader of nonviolent demonstrations, a pastor, an activist, an educated black man, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and plenty more titles. He also has plaques and even a monument of himself, signifying his importance.

 

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photo credit: abcnews.go.com

 

sources: nobleprize.org; thekingcenter.org; biography.com

 

 

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Fact 20: The Black Panther Party

The Black Panther Party was founded in 1966 in Oakland, California by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton. The group was made for self-defense to patrol and protect blacks neighborhoods from police brutality. Their inspiration of starting the group was Malcolm X, who embraced economic and social issues. Malcolm had such a revolutionary philosophical, militant stance that after his death Huey and Bobby were motivated to start the Black Panther Party.

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Ways that the Panthers were helpful is, they organized many community programs that provided health clinics, shoes and breakfast for children. They had a 10 point program which were:

  • “We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our black community.”
  • “We want full employment of our people.”
  • “We want an end to the robbery by the Capitalists of our Black Community.”
  • “We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human beings.”
  • “We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present day society.”
  • “We want all black men to be exempt from the military service.”
  • “We want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of black people.”
  • “We want freedom for all black men in federal, state, county and city jails and prisons.”
  • “We want all black people when brought to trial to be tried in court by a jury of their peer group or people from their Black communities, as written by the U.S Constitution.”
  • “We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace.”

 

They had a belief that economic exploitation was the root of all oppression in  U.S at the time. The Panthers caught a lot attention because of the stern beliefs and it even caught the eye of the FBI director  J. Edgar Hoover. He had his own vendettas against black leadership, including Dr. Martin Luther King. Hoover considered the party a BIG threat to national security and had planned on shutting them down but he didn’t. The party branched out to 45 chapters around the U.S and  they had the support of those branches all over the U.S.

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The Black Panther Party had a rivalry with the U.S. Organization which led to a shootout, killing four of the Panther members. They also had officer related shootings that resulted in the death of three members. The Panthers had quite a few altercations but overall their purpose was to protect their communities.

They have inspired, more recently the Black Lives Matter movement, which is a movement that campaigns against violence towards black people; and you know the rest. So Malcolm X inspired the Black Panther Party, which inspired Black Lives Matter and who knows where else thatb can lead to! 🙂

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Sources: socialalternatives.org; britannica.com

featured image photo credit: zinnedproject.com