King's Civil Rights Tactics: Effective or Not?
Was Martin Luther King's approach to gaining equal rights effective? What methods did he use, and what methods competed with those of King for the attention of Black activists and the American public during the 1950s and 1960s?

King's Civil Rights Tactics: Effective or Not?

Although Black Americans made racial progress with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as their leader, the job was left unfinished with his assassination on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. caused voter registration in the South to shoot upward, and by the late 1960s, there were several hundred black elected officials in the Old South. By 1972, nearly half of the southern black children sat in integrated classrooms alongside of the white children just as King had mentioned in his "I Have A Dream" speech. Also, about one-third of the black families had risen out of poverty and joined the ranks of the middle class. (The American Pageant, p. 871-872).

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached Christian love and embraced the non-violent tactics put forth by India's Mohandas Gandhi. King was inspired by Henry David Thoreau's writings and incorporated these ideas in his non-violent civil rights movement, including the use of civil disobedience, boycotts, sit-ins, and the press and media. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led several peaceful marches during his movement including his "March on Washington" in August of 1963, in which he and 200,000 demonstrators demanded more governmental action in the struggle for racial equality. Early in 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his demonstrators were marching peacefully to the state capital in Montgomery, Alabama, when they were assaulted by police bearing tear gas and whips. This march was trying to address the fact that blacks in Selma, Alabama made up 50 percent of the population but only one percent of the voters.

This police brutality of the 1950s and 1960s did not stop Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. nor did his militant black activists counterparts such as Stokely Carmichael and Malcolm X. Carmichael urged giving up peaceful demonstrations and pursuing "Black Power." Riots broke out in Newark, New Jersey, and in Detroit, Michigan. Rioters burned down their own neighborhoods, and attacked white people and the symbols of the white race. These militant black activists used this and other forms of violence to achieve their goals and to try to change American power structure.

I feel that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was successful in helping the Blacks of America more than his violent counterparts. He helped the Blacks to gain some degree of racial equality, however I feel that we will never have total racial equality in the world. Rhonda D.

References: The American Pageant

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