The civil rights movement that developed in the United States in the 1950s has had many followers and leaders, but not many of them are as well-recognized as Martin Luther King, Jr. Being a Baptist minister, King used religious sermons and speeches as a part of his social activism. His approach to the revolutionary movement against racial injustice led to the formation of nonviolence and civil disobedience as some of the main protesting tactics.
King grew up in a thriving Black neighborhood, but he was not safe from experiencing prejudice against his race even as a child. Although his family had resources to support King’s education and comfortable life, the continuing segregation and racial disparity surrounded the activist throughout his life (West). Such injustice has led King to join the protests against the nation’s segregation laws.
Using the rhetoric and Biblical teachings he learned from his community, King introduced a new voice to the fight against the mistreatment of Black people. He led many sermons with the explicit message against segregation (King Jr. 3). King united such concepts as “power” and “love” and encouraged nonviolence as an answer to support desegregation.
However, King still was a radical activist who encouraged people to perform acts of civil disobedience. This action means that a person refuses to follow certain laws that one finds unjust (Livingston 700). In the case of the civil rights movement, segregation laws were not to be obeyed. By encouraging people to disobey, King avoided calling for violence against people and the state while allowing people to make their voices heard.
Much can be said about the actions and achievements of Martin Luther King, Jr. Nevertheless, some of his most recognized ideas are nonviolence, Christian faith as a source of strength and love, and civil disobedience as the primary nonviolent protest approach. King’s legacy inspires and leads activists to this day, and his powerful sermons are recognized by many.
King Jr., Martin Luther. Strength to Love. Beacon Press, 2019.
Livingston, Alexander. “Power for the Powerless: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Late Theory of Civil Disobedience.” The Journal of Politics, vol. 82, no. 2, 2020, pp. 700-713.
West, Cornel. “Martin Luther King Jr Was a Radical. We Must Not Sterilize His Legacy.” The Guardian, vol. 4, 2018.