Martin Luther King Jr. was born in January 15th 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States, and passed away in April 4th 1968 after being assassinated in Memphis, Georgia in United States at the age of thirty nine years. He was a clergyman, humanitarian, leader and activist based in United States operating under the umbrella of African-American Civil Rights Movement.
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Martin Luther King Jr. was exemplary in engaging civil disobedience that was nonviolent in his civil rights movements (Carson, 2001). American progressivism history has identified Martin Luther King Jr. as an icon. Martin Luther King Jr. was born as Michael King; the names were later changed by the father to Martin Luther King Jr. to name him after Martin Luther who was a German reformer (King, 2010). The father to Martin Luther King Jr. was also born as Michael King; the changes of both names were effected after Martin Luther King senior in 1934 had visited Nazi Germany where he had attended the Fifth Baptist World Alliance Congress in the city of Berlin (King, 1991).
Martin Luther King Jr. had an elder sister by the name Willie Christine King and also had a younger brother by the name Alfred Daniel Williams King. Martin Luther King Jr. appeared at the ‘Gone with the Wind’ movie that was held at the 1939 Atlanta premiere (King, 2010). Martin Luther King Jr. attended Booker T. Washington High School, Morehouse College for his bachelors of Arts degree in sociology, then to Crozer Theological Seminary for his masters and in Boston University for his doctorate degree. Martin Luther King Jr. attended schools in different localities but within the United States (Carson, 2001). He was influential in the Peace Movement and in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. The religion of Martin Luther King Jr. was inclined to progressive National Baptist Convention; he was married to Coretta Scott King from 1953 until his death in 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta had four children namely Yolanda Denise-King born in 1955 and passed away in 2007, Martin Luther King III born in 1957, Dexter Scott King born in 1961 and Bernice Albertan King who was born in 1963. The parents to Martin Luther King Jr. were Reverend Martin Luther-King Senior and Alberta Williams King (King, 2010).
Activism in civil rights started early as Martin Luther King Jr. was young, he was a minister at Baptist, he organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, and he was also influential in the formation of SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) in 1957 in which he served as the president. Martin Luther King Jr. also organized the Albany, Georgia segregation in 1962. He also organized the Birmingham, Alabama non-violent protests due to brutality of the police officials. He is greatly remembered for the famous speech ‘I have a dream’ at the March on Washington in 1963, where many people argued that Martin Luther King Jr. was a great orator in the history of the United States (Carson, 2001).
FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigations) COINTELPRO argued that Martin Luther King Jr. was radical and he was under constant watch by the agency. FBI agents tried Martin Luther King Jr. for communist ties and investigated his extramarital liaisons. It was noted that FBI at one occasion sent a threatening mail to Martin Luther King Jr.; he garnered a number of awards identifying with Nobel Peace Prize of 1964, Congressional Gold Medal that was offered posthumous in 2004 and Presidential Medal of Freedom that was offered at posthumous in 1977 (King, 2010).
Martin Luther King Jr. fought racial inequality in United States bravely, although through nonviolence means, he also fought poverty in the United States and was against the Vietnam War, in which he presented the speech ‘Beyond Vietnam’ (King, 2010). At the time of his death, he was busy getting ready for the ‘Poor People’s Campaign’ in Washington D.C. (King, 2010). The death of Martin Luther King Jr. triggered riots in major cities of the United States (Carson & Shepard, 2002). James Earl Ray was convicted of the murder although it is strongly believed that the government of the United States took a part in the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. Loyd Jowers conspired against the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. In 1986, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Day was incorporated as part of the federal holidays in the United States.
Martin Luther King Jr. was motivated by the unfair treatment of the African American communities in the United States; he was black himself and an American citizen by birth. Martin Luther King Jr. felt that equality should not be practiced despite the color of the skin, in which meant nothing to him (King, 1991). His personal experiences as a black person in the white community made him who he was and the way he reacted to racial segregation; while at Atlanta, Martin Luther King Jr. faced racial segregation while he grew up, and he came to hate the behaviors of the whites against the black community. Black slaves had no rights and at the same time were not recognized as part of the American citizens, a model that made them poor forever (Carson & Shepard, 2002).
Martin Luther King Jr. was committed to change the perceptions of the blacks in the United States. The motivation of Martin Luther King Jr. is intrinsic motivation, since his actions existed within himself with a purposeful interest. Taking a critical look at the ‘I have a dream’ speech (King, 2010), while standing at the Lincoln Memorial with more than two hundred and fifty thousand people standing to listen to his speech, that significantly contributed to changing of America, in aspects of righteousness, justice and peace (Carson, 2001).
Theory of cognitive dissonance is well reflected in the works of Martin Luther King Jr. it was noted that King’s way of life developed tensions that emanated from intellectual and emotional reference frame of self, and at the same time developed mechanisms of coping with the environment. The new information that was delivered to the American people sharply contrasted with the knowledge, beliefs, ideas, attitudes and assumptions of the people in the community, hence building diverse tensions between the whites and the blacks (Carson & Shepard, 2002). Another theory is the cognitive motivation theory, that argued that the driving forces of Martin Luther King Jr. were exemplary and inbuilt, where the behaviors of Martin Luther King Jr. were directed at the desired results.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs focus at needs of human beings identifying with physiological, safety, belonging or love, esteem and self actualization; Martin Luther King Jr. was at a definite ‘level’ basing on his works and motivations. It can be argued that Martin Luther King Jr. was in the self-actualization level since he believed in himself and had made an image out of his motivations. Martin Luther King Jr. was at his full potential and had realized his potential in changing the American society as per his vision (King, 1991).
Carson, C. (2001). The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: Hachette Book Group.
Carson, C. & Shepard, K. (2002). A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: Warner Books.
King, M. L. (1991). A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King. New York: HarperCollins.
King, M. L. (2010). Strength to Love. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Fortress.