Subject: History and Political Science Date: Topic: King: Pilgrimage to the Mountaintop Introduction Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and the Civil Rights Movement in America are alternative beats of the same heart. In his overall fight against racism, the important landmarks were the Montgomery bus boycott, the March on Washington; anti-Vietnam War Activism and Assassination in the year 1968, Dr…
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King, and his adversaries belonged to the powerful ruling class, reluctant to give any concessions to the blacks. He led the movement at great personal sacrifice and suffering. Sitkoff writes, “ However overwrought or sometimes paralyzed by fear he became, King’s biblical faith enabled him to keep his eyes on the prize, to put righteousness before expediency, despite the beatings, jailing, inner turmoil, and constant threats if assassination.”(xiv) Unprecedented changes began to happen in United States and King’s mission paved way for a broader crusade against imperialism and of economic inequality by the time of his death and subsequently thereon. The forces that were bitterly opposed to King’s mission now actively supported and took lead to powerfully translate his ideals into the reality. Mega-corporations like McDonald’s and Walmart who specialized in exploitation of black-labor took up the cause of civil rights legacy and promoted publications like “Make Your Own History Resources Guide.” Prominent figures from the civil rights establishment found place in their boards of management. The American Dream engulfed the black people and improved their lifestyles and standard of living. This remarkable mass movement challenged formal segregation and it finally ended in the mid-1960s. From where and how did King draw inspiration to plan and sustain movement on such a gigantic scale that had ramifications not only on the American social and economic life but also had global implications? Sitkoff argues, “The black church sustained King’s social Gospel dream, and gave him the courage, the oratorical skills, and the spiritual vision to change the course of American world history.”(xiv) In the final years before his assassination, his outlook had turned global and he was in confrontation with two important issues that challenged the destiny of America. Massive poverty that was the outcome of segregation and the atrocities carried out in Vietnam by the US military, drew the ire of the campaign managers led by Dr. King. At the same time, though his stature had reached the international levels, he stood by the black sanitation workers( a local issue), one of the lowest paid workforces, not only issuing press statements, but by actively participating in their protests. He came in to direct confrontation with the governing authorities in Memphis, a Southern City that thrived on racism and exploitation. By late 1964 the civil rights movement was in a crisis. The leaders of the movement were divided over strategy and tactics. King still believed in the non-violent approach and stood by his tenet of appealing to the “moral con science” of the leadership of the nation, including that of white Northerners. The successive Presidents in Washington were concerned about the international ramifications of the issue. The main problem was how to shape the post-colonial world, taking into account the Russian factor. The top leadership at Washington worked on twin strategies. Firstly to break the unity of the black leaders and secondly to negotiate with moderate and middle level leaders of the black
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