Martin had many influences throughout his life, many of which would shape his rhetoric, and the way he handled himself and those around him. Martin’s influences could be traced back to three things: his parents and home life, his education, and then his own personal experiences with racism. These three topics shaped Martin and his views on racism, and they were also what made him the most respected and the most admired Civil Rights Leader of his time. Martin’s Parents and Home Life Martin Luther King Jr. stood for many things; non-violence, love, equality, peace, all of which could be used to define his perfect community, his perfect world.
Martin believed all of these things could be achieved with persistence and the right frame of mind. And from the numerous Civil Rights achievements Martin made throughout the course of his life, it was clear that his philosophy and his beliefs really were true to the very last detail. Martin wasn’t however, born with these beliefs, or his leadership abilities. Martin was a thinking man, but most importantly, He was a by-product of his surrounding environment. Martin’s early life could be considered normal by some given the time era, but being looked down upon because the color of your skin is something you would never like to get used to.
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Martin was born on January 15th, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia into the prominent black middle class family of Martin Luther King Sr. and Alberta Christine Williams, and was the second child and first son of the couple. Martin’s early life consisted of being surrounded by two Baptists Ministers (‘Daddy King’ and his grandfather, Alfred Daniel Williams) on a regular basis, along with living in a very moral based household. Martin Luther King Sr. was as strong in his will as he was in his body. He had a dynamic personality, and his very physical presence (weighing about 220 pounds) commanded attention.
He had always been a very strong and self-confident person. Martin would always say that he had never met a person more fearless and courageous person than his father. As a sharecropper’s son, Martin Sr. had met brutalities firsthand, and had begun to strike back at an early age. Martin’s father’s family lived in a little town named Stockbridge, Georgia, about eighteen miles from Atlanta. One day, while working on the plantation, he [Martin’s father] keenly observed that the boss was cheating his father [Martin’s Grandfather] out of some hard-earned money.
He revealed this to his father right in the presence of the plantation owner. After that happened, the boss angrily and furiously shouted, “Jim, if you don’t keep this nigger boy of yours in his place, I am going to slap him down. ” Martin Sr. ‘s grandfather, being almost totally dependent on the boss for economic security, urged him to keep quiet. Martin Sr. , looking back over that experience, said at that moment he became determined to leave the farm. He often said humorously also, “I ain’t going to plough a mule anymore. ” After a few months, he left Stockbridge and went to Atlanta determined to get an education.
Although he was eighteen at the time???a year older than most finishing high school???he started out getting a high school education and did not stop until he had graduated from Atlanta’s Morehouse College. The thing that it is said Martin admired the most about his father was his genuine Christian character. He was a man of real integrity, deeply committed to moral and ethical principles. He was conscientious in all of his undertakings. Even the person who disagrees with his frankness had to admit that his motives and actions are sincere.
He never hesitated to tell the truth and always spoke his mind, no matter the time, nor circumstance. This quality of frankness had often caused many to fear Martin’s father. Martin Jr. had young and old alike say to him, “I’m scared to death of your dad. ” Without much explanation needed, it is easy to say Martin’s father was stern at many points. His father also had quite an interest in civil rights. He had been president of the NAACP in Atlanta, and he always stood out in social reform. From before young Martin was born, he had refused to ride the city buses after witnessing a brutal attack on a load of Negro passengers.
Martin Sr. also led the fight in Atlanta to equalize teachers’ salaries and was instrumental in the elimination of Jim Crow elevators in the courthouse. Martin’s father also wielded great influence in the Negro community and perhaps won the grudging respect of the whites as pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church. At any rate, they never attacked him physically, a fact that filled my brother and sister and me with wonder as we grew up in this tension-packed atmosphere. With this heritage, it is not surprising that Martin learned to abhor segregation, considering it both rationally inexplicable and morally unjustifiable.
Martin’s mother, Alberta Williams King, was behind the scene of setting forth those motherly cares, the lack of which leaves a missing link in life (i. e. Malcolm’s early childhood). Alberta was a very devout person with a deep commitment to the Christian faith. Unlike Martin’s father, she was soft-spoken and very easygoing. Alberta was the daughter of Alfred Daniel Williams, who was a successful minister at Ebenezer Baptist Church preceding Martin’s father. Alberta grew up in comparative comfort as Martin; she was sent to the best available schools and college and was, in general, protected from the worst blights of discrimination.
As an only child, she was provided with all of the conveniences that any high school and college student could expect. In spite of her relatively comfortable circumstances, Martin’s mother never complacently adjusted herself to the system of segregation. She instilled a sense of self-respect in all of her children from the very beginning. Martin’s mother confronted the age-old problem of the Negro parent in America: how to explain discrimination and segregation to a small child.
She taught Martin that he should always feel a sense of “somebodiness,” but that on the other hand, he had to go out there and face a system that would consistently say he would always be ‘one step back, no matter how fast he ran. ‘ Alberta also told Martin about slavery and how it ended with the Civil War. She tried to explain the divided system of the South???the segregated schools, restaurants, theaters, housing; the white and colored signs on drinking fountains, waiting rooms, lavatories???as a social condition rather than a natural order.
She made it clear that she opposed this system and that Martin must never allow it to make himself feel inferior. Needless to say, Martin’s home situation was very congenial. It is said that Martin really admired his parents, and that an argument between the two rarely occurred. These factors were highly significant in determining his religious attitudes. It was also quite easy for Martin to think of a God of love mainly because he grew up in a family where love was central theme and where love-based relationships were always present.
Martin too found it fairly simple to think of the universe as friendly mainly because of his uplifting hereditary and environmental circumstances. Those around Martin also noticed that he had tendencies to lean more toward optimism than pessimism on the topic of human nature mainly because of his childhood experiences. Martin’s Education At the age of five, Martin began school, before reaching the legal age of six, at the Yonge Street Elementary School in Atlanta. When his age was discovered, he was not permitted to continue in school and was not able to resume his education.
Following Yonge School, he was enrolled several different schools, including: David T. Howard Elementary School, Atlanta University Laboratory School and Booker T. Washington High School. Martin was seen as a very smart child, and had a very good work ethic. Because of his high scores on the college entrance examinations in his junior year of high school, he advanced to Morehouse College without formal graduation from Booker T. Washington. Having skipped both the ninth and twelfth grades in high-school, Martin entered Morehouse College at the age of fifteen. In 1948, he graduated from Morehouse College with a B.
A. degree in Sociology. The following fall Martin he enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. While attending Crozer, he also studied at the University of Pennsylvania. Martin was elected President of the Senior Class and delivered the valedictory address. He won the Peral Plafkner Award as the most outstanding student, and he received the J. Lewis Crozer Fellowship for graduate study at a university of his choice. He was awarded a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Crozer in 1951. In September of 1951, Martin began doctoral studies in Systematic Theology at Boston University.
Martin also studied at Harvard University. Martin’s dissertation, “A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman,” was completed in 1955, and the Ph. D. degree was awarded to him on June 5, 1955. Martin’s Personal Experiences There are a couple events that come to mind when talking about Martin’s personal experiences and lasting impressions. The first one deals with the loss of his Grandmother. Martin’s grandmother was held very dear to all his family, but especially to him. Martin sometimes thought that he was her favorite grandchild.
He was particularly hurt by her death mainly because of the extreme love he had for her. The death hurt him so much because she had assisted greatly in raising all of his family. It was after this incident that for the first time Martin talked at any length on the subject of immortality. His parents attempted to explain it to him, but Martin was assured that somehow his grandmother still lived. It is believed that this was why Martin was such a strong believer in personal immortality. The second incident that comes to mind is what happened to Martin when he was about six years old.
From the age of three he had a white playmate that was about his age. They always felt free to play their childhood games together. Martin’s friend didn’t live in his community, but he was usually around every day; his father owned a store across the street from Martin’s home. At the age of six they both entered school???separate schools, of course. Martin remembered how their friendship began to break as soon as they had entered school; this was not at all Martin’s desire but his friend’s. The climax came when Martin’s friend told him one day that his father had demanded that he would play with Martin no more.
Young Martin was at the dinner table when the situation was discussed, and there for the first time, he was made aware of the existence of a race problem. Before that incident, Martin had never really been conscious of the race issues in America. As his parents discussed some of the tragedies that had resulted from this problem and some of the insults they themselves had confronted on account of it, Martin was greatly shocked, and from that moment on he was determined to hate every white person. As Martin grew with age, those same feelings of hatred of the white man continued to grow as well.
Martin’s parents would always tell him that he should not hate the white man, but that it was his duty as a Christian to love them. This is when the question arose in his mind: “How could I love a race of people who hated me and who had been responsible for breaking me up with one of my best childhood friends? ” That question stayed in Martin’s mind for a great number of years. Impact on Martin’s Racial Views I choose each one of these topics because of the way Martin handled himself throughout the course of his life when dealing with such a controversial topic.
No matter what happened, Martin never backed from the idea of Racial Integration. When a Sunday Church school was bombed and the end result was the unfortunate death of 4 little girls, Martin’s belief didn’t waiver. When Martin was stabbed in the chest during a book signing, by a fellow black woman, Martin’s belief didn’t waiver. When he was sent to jail, or hit with a brick during a march, Martin never thought that they should take a break from protesting. In fact, with each passing incident, Martin’s belief for Racial Integration became stronger, and that is a quality that only great leaders possess.
It wasn’t just his parent’s views or beliefs that made Martin the great Civil Rights Leader he was. Martin’s education played a large role in Martin’s thought process. It was in school, when Martin discovered the teaching of Jesus and Gandhi, and the strength of non-violent protest. Impact on Martin’s Rhetoric It is quite evident that there were a number of events and circumstances that shaped Martin’s views and his beliefs. In reading his “I See the Promise Land” speech, you can relate each of the previously discussed topics to certain parts throughout his speech.
After reading the speech, the first part that sticks out to me is when Martin briefly discusses longevity: “Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place…” This part stood out to me because of the love and admiration Martin had for his grandmother, and how Martin had trouble accepting the concept of her death and the reasons behind the immortality of those around him.
The second part of this speech that stood out to me is when Martin talks about the way in which not to achieve the desired goals of breaking segregation in Memphis: “We don’t have to argue with anybody. We don’t have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don’t need any bricks and bottles, we don’t need any Molotov cocktails…” This part of the speech stands out on the basis that this shows Martin’s belief for non-violence, and the influence his parents had on him. His parent’s were never one’s to argue with anyone, or even each other for that atter. This part reminds me of his mother especially because of the way she always told Martin that no matter what, you should ‘always love the white person. ‘ The third part of this speech comes in the beginning when Martin talks about a time period he would like to enter if he had the choice: “As you know, if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of general and panoramic view of the whole human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, “Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in? — I would take my mental flight by Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn’t stop there. I would move on by Greece, and take my mind to Mount Olympus. And I would see Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around the Parthenon as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality. But I wouldn’t stop there. I would go on, even to the great heyday of the Roman Empire. And I would see developments around there, through various emperors and leaders.
But I wouldn’t stop there. I would even come up to the day of the Renaissance, and get a quick picture of all that the Renaissance did for the cultural and esthetic life of man. But I wouldn’t stop there. I would even go by the way that the man for whom I’m named had his habitat. And I would watch Martin Luther as he tacked his ninety-five theses on the door at the church in Wittenberg. But I wouldn’t stop there. I would come on up even to 1863, and watch a vacillating president by the name of Abraham Lincoln finally come to the conclusion that he had to sign the Emancipation Proclamation.
But I wouldn’t stop there. I would even come up the early thirties, and see a man grappling with the problems of the bankruptcy of his nation. And come with an eloquent cry that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. But I wouldn’t stop there. Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty, and say, “If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the twentieth century, I will be happy. ” Now that’s a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion all around. That’s a strange statement.
But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a way that men, in some strange way, are responding–something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya: Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee–the cry is always the same–“We want to be free. “” After reading this, I could tell how Martin’s education had an impact on his speeches.
Martin doesn’t focus on one general time period in which he felt he could’ve had an impact on. Martin focuses on numerous time periods, and discusses how each of them were no more important than the other, but that each example he gave, was one of courage being displayed, and that no matter what, times may get dark, but you should always keep your eye on that light at the end of the tunnel. Martin vs. Malcolm When being compared to Malcolm, it’s easy to say Martin really never experienced the feeling of not having the basic necessities of life. These things were always provided by a father who always put his family first.
Martin’s father never made more than an ordinary salary, but the secret was that he knew the art of saving and budgeting. He has always had sense enough not to live beyond his means. So for this reason he was able to provide Martin and his family with the basic necessities of life with little strain. To go along with that, Martin never really experienced the type of racism Malcolm experienced either. Malcolm had every short-coming in life. From his broken family and his lack of structure, Malcolm quite nearly almost spent his life locked up in jail.
Malcolm also experienced racism early and often throughout his life, which lead to his early hatred of the white-man, and his belief for a ‘separate, but equal’ society. Another major difference between the two was their education, and how each received their knowledge. Many of Martin’s beliefs were derived from what he learned not only from his parent’s but from his schooling as well; especially the teaching and ways of Jesus and Gandhi. Malcolm was self-educated with nothing but the books he had access to in prison and his only personal experiences with the issues of racism.
I believe though, that in the end, Martin and Malcolm each played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement and the push for African-American Equality in the United States. Each individual has shown me that no matter what the circumstance, anything can be achieved, whether it be turning your life around to spread the word of Islam or how we as people, can all get along no matter the religious belief or color of your skin. In the end, I believe that it is the teachings of these two individuals that should be passed down to future generations to try and make this world a better place.