Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Impact on the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960
Martin Luther King Jr. was the most important and influential civil rights activist in the history of the United States of America. Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia to Alberta Williams and Michael Luther King Sr. Originally, King’s name was going to be Michael Luther King Jr., but his father renamed him to Martin Luther King Jr. after a trip to Europe. As a kid, King attended segregated schools, and graduated high school at age 15 (John A. Kirk). King attended Morehouse College, trying many different majors, such as sociology, medicine and law, before finally settling to major in ministry. In 1948, King was ordained by his father as co-minister at Ebenezer Church. After graduating from Morehouse in June 1948, King studied for a divinity degree at Crozer Theological Seminary in Upland, Pennsylvania, graduating in 1951 (Kirk). After that, King enrolled in the Systematic Theology PHD program at Boston University. While at Boston University, King met Coretta Scott, his future wife (Nobel). Initially, King’s father wanted him to marry a woman from Atlanta, and opposed King’s plans to marry Coretta. “When King refused to back down, his father relented, and on June 18, 1953, he performed the marriage ceremony at the Scott family home in rural Perry County, Alabama” (Kirk). Martin Luther King Jr’s role in the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960’s positively affected the removal of segregation.
II. Historical Setting and Conflict
Prior to King’s involvement, tensions had been rising within the Black community about segregation laws long before King’s time. In the mid-15th century, European traders started exporting slaves from Africa to work on plantations in the New World. It is estimated that about 12 million slaves were purchased, most of these slaves went to plantations in the Caribbean, but about ⅓ were taken to the American South. (“Jim Crow Law”).
“Before the Civil War, nearly 4 million black slaves toiled in the American South” (Slavery in Africa). Cotton, the American South’s most profitable cash crop, was used for a variety of things, especially in the exponentially growing textile business, fueled by the Industrial Revolution. The extreme demand for cotton caused an increase in demand for slave labor. As time progressed into the 19th century, tensions began to arise between the North and the South. The North believed that all men should be equal, including blacks, while the South wanted to retain their oppression of blacks, and profit from the spoils of their labor. The disagreements of policy and the election of Abraham Lincoln, became the straw that broke the camel’s back. On April 12, 1861, the American Civil war began. Originally, seven southern states had succeeded: South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, and Louisiana. They were later joined by Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and...