Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Martin Luther King, Civil Rights, America, United States, Rhetoric, Speech, Violence, Law

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2020/12/01

The 1950-1960s in America marked the age of Civil Rights, and the attempt to gain equality for African Americans. While the Civil War freed the slaves, this did not ensure their equality, as the Supreme Court had ruled that “separate but equal” was a constitutionally legal thing to do. Furthermore, African American lived in the shadow of the Jim Crow laws which further enforced segregation on American society. For these reasons, Martin Luther King Jr. is a monumental historical figure, as he worked to offset these unequal conditions for African Americans. King was also successful in doing so without the use of violence, and every one of his civil rights marches were non-violent. For these reasons, Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most important figures in American civil rights, and a person who led to a transformation of American culture.
King’s contributions to American society are many. All throughout the 1950s and 1960s, King led marches and rallies for freedom. From Birmingham to Selma, King led marches for the cause of racial and economic injustice within the black community. He often teamed up with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee which promoted the message of non-violence along with marches. In fact, this message was against the other major civil rights leader Malcolm X, who did use violent means to spread civil rights. This is why one of King’s leading contributions and legacy to history is his radically different perspective towards creating change within a culture. King’s belief systems was founded on Christianity, as he was a former Christian minister. However, he was also influenced by Gandhi, and how he was able to create change in India without using violence. King is often cited with wanting to visit India, and this became the foundations for why King believed so strongly in non-violence.
Another one of King’s greatest contributions to history is his great oratory skills, especially in his “I Have a Dream” speech. This is one of the greatest speeches of all time, and it speaks to what the fight for civil rights is all about. Anyone seeking civil rights for any issue can now look towards this speech and have good justification for why civil rights matter. King’s speech uses great imagery and sound logic, which is why the speech has had such a lasting impact. It essentially summarizes all of King’s major beliefs about civil rights throughout his life. King cites all the foundational documents of the United States. He references the constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and also calls on Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. According to King these documents proved, “That all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable Rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of Happiness.” This is a reference to the famous phrase in the Declaration of Independence and it really speaks to the foundation of the civil rights movement and arguments. King brought more publicity to the fact this clause was being violated by American society, which is why change was needed.
Furthermore, the speech highlights King’s belief that everyone throughout America should join together in nonviolent protest to work for the cause of equality. King makes sure to not exclude anyone out of his speech, which is why it so applicable for all times and issues in the civil rights movement. King concludes by saying, “We will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing Free at last! Free at last!.” King’s message is universal, and this speech had a lasting impact on the civil rights movement.
A direct result of the speech, and a final legacy King left on the civil rights movement is the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1968. King’s efforts were monumental in getting this legislation through, even though he was assassinated in 1968. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. It stopped the unequal voter registration laws, and ended school segregation. The Civil Rights Act of 1968 ended unequal treatment of housing opportunities, and this is something King was working hard to bring prior to his assassination. Therefore, King’s legacy extends beyond rhetoric and ideology, although those were important. He brought meaningful legislation into America that stopped the unequal treatment of African Americans.
Most historians who look back at the life of Martin Luther King Jr. agree that he achieved a lot for the cause of civil rights. His ideology of non-violence has carried over to many other peaceful protests, both in America and throughout the world. His rhetoric further influenced many within the 1960s to stop the endless violence and find a better way to achieve their goals. King was directly involved in getting monumental civil rights legislation passed. While he did not end racism or inequality in America, he is a reason America changed for the better, and the praise King receives is warranted given his vast achievements within the African American community.


King, Martin Luther. "I Have a Dream Speech." Martin Luther King I Have a Dream Speech - American Rhetoric. August 28, 1963. Accessed February 28, 2015. http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm.
Yanco, Jennifer J. Misremembering Dr. King Revisiting the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013.
Baldwin, Lewis V. The Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.: The Boundaries of Law, Politics, and Religion. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2002.

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WePapers. (2020, December, 01) Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Example. Retrieved August 13, 2022, from https://www.wepapers.com/samples/martin-luther-king-jr-essay-example/
"Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Example." WePapers, 01 Dec. 2020, https://www.wepapers.com/samples/martin-luther-king-jr-essay-example/. Accessed 13 August 2022.
WePapers. 2020. Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Example., viewed August 13 2022, <https://www.wepapers.com/samples/martin-luther-king-jr-essay-example/>
WePapers. Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Example. [Internet]. December 2020. [Accessed August 13, 2022]. Available from: https://www.wepapers.com/samples/martin-luther-king-jr-essay-example/
"Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Example." WePapers, Dec 01, 2020. Accessed August 13, 2022. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/martin-luther-king-jr-essay-example/
WePapers. 2020. "Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Example." Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. Retrieved August 13, 2022. (https://www.wepapers.com/samples/martin-luther-king-jr-essay-example/).
"Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Example," Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com, 01-Dec-2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.wepapers.com/samples/martin-luther-king-jr-essay-example/. [Accessed: 13-Aug-2022].
Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Example. Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/martin-luther-king-jr-essay-example/. Published Dec 01, 2020. Accessed August 13, 2022.

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