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The second period was distinct by comparative disappointment, and its heritage was the foresight of political power and economic welfare upon the poor, the powerless, and the racially disadvantaged. In the first period, King and his allies brought about the beginning of the violated community. In the second, the distant prospect of their adored society disappeared at Memphis. The magnitude of the decade ending with Selma was in the extensive repercussion of the protest (Lewis, 245).
Martin Luther King, JR was chosen as leader for the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) over many other civil rights activists. Not only was he probably the best person to lead their boycott, but he was the person “best suited to become the leader of the larger struggle for racial rights” (Lewis, 246) . For the Montgomery’s Afro-Americans, in order to resist successfully, it must be nonviolent and passive.
In 1956, King, along with several allies, entered a public bus in front of his house. It was the start of community harmony. Inspired by King’s personal courage, despite “jeopardized jobs, intimidation by the Ku Klux Klan, and harassment by the police and bombs“ (Lewis, 246). A city regulation was called upon to ban organized taxi transport of bus boycotters. With money raised in the vicinity and from gradually increasing donations from national labor, libertarian, and religious organizations, the MIA bought many vehicles. The city wanted and got an accusation of King and more than eight other MIA members for planning to intervene with standard business activity. Sentencing by the Montgomery court and appeal to the federal courts followed. Just as MIA leaders awaited the expected unfavorable decision from the municipal court on November 13, “the U.S. Supreme Court decreed Alabama’s state and local laws enforcing segregation on buses unconstitutional” (Lewis, 246) .
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The method for nonviolent civil rights campaigns was whole in Montgomery: “mounting of increasingly provocative peaceful demonstrations; gross acts of violence by white citizens and outrageous misconduct by local law enforcement and judicial bodies, relentlessly reported by the national media; this led to direct or indirect federal intervention and negotiated settlements” (Lewis, 246). King’s platform in public speaking, stimulating charisma in the community and his internationally reported stay in jail were exceedingly efficient.
The mixture of King’s personal resources and nonviolent tactics have a far more difficult appearance than they often did at the time. Indeed, he and his association were continually terrorized by the cruel irony that unless they prompted savage feedback from their opponents, the nation tended to accuse his organization’s motives and reprimand King for disturbing what seemed as slow yet systematic racial progress in a given community (Lewis, 247).
The recently produced Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), were at first nervous with and then antagonistic to King’s traditional role as a race leader. Wherein “King and his followers were not so much “genuine” versus “tactical” nonviolent passive resistance, but King’s leadership credibility” (Lewis, 247) .
Once King left Montgomery for Atlanta at the end of 1959, the doctrine of nonviolent passive resistance and the channel to advance it were securely in place. Albany, Georgia, a severely isolate town, was King’s first major hindrance. The first goals were humble: “integration of interstate bus and rail facilities and the formation of a permanent biracial civic committee. But three fundamental elements were amiss in Albany: 1) SCLC planned poorly; 2) local white opposition was resolute and intelligent; and 3) the federal government withheld active support. Each other these elements operated synergistically, so that the conduct of one rapidly determined that of the others” (Lewis, 247).
When activists marched to Albany’s court house to push demands that intensified over the months to end all segregation ordinances and cause adoption of a fair hiring and employment policy for the city and its businesses, law officers issued polite orders to disperse, patiently arresting and assembling the demonstrators for transports to jails. Violence finally broke out on July 24, 1962, “the person behind was not the red-faced, overweight policemen wielding clubs, they were 2,000 rampaging Afro-American teenagers. King’s embarrassment was so great that he adjourned demonstrations for a ‘day of penance’” (Lewis, 249).
Birmingham, Alabama was an outstanding triumph for King and his movement. The goals were to “desegregate schools, public facilities, and commercial institutions, initiate hiring and promotion of Afro-American personnel in downtown retail stores, and establish a biracial committee to monitor racial progress” (Lewis, 249). Here the three fundamental elements were promising: “1) SCLC planned well; 2) local white opposition was divided and part of it ideally intemperate; and 3) the federal government intervened decisively on the side of equity” (249) .
In 1963, King, Abernathy, and Walker went to Anniston, Gadsden, Talladega, Montgomery, Birmingham, and the countryside in the region of Selma as part of SCLC’S “People-to-people tour to stiffen the resolve of Alabama Afro-Americans to place their names on voter rolls and to garner needed area support and national publicity for the campaign” (Lewis, 249). Furthermore, there was an extremely victorious Los Angeles fund-raising assembly planned.
Birmingham set the moral stature of King in the national awareness. The Birmingham Manifesto said the conditions that determined the people of that city to act defiant and the basis of that defiance: “We act today in full concert with our Hebraic-Christian, the law of morality, and the Constitution of our nation. The absence of justice and progress in Birmingham demands that we make a moral witness to give our community a chance to survive” (Lewis, 249).
His detainment and isolated imprisonment is a product in the second document, the commanding “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Countering numerous white southern preachers and rabbis who damned his behavior as undeserving of a man of God, the jailed author wrote that he had approached to pass the “gospel of freedom to a city of injustice” (Lewis, 249) . “Like Paul…respond to the Macedonian call for aid” (250). But not anything amazed the interracial boast as much as King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, the third remarkable document of the Birmingham period.
In 1964 Time magazine chose him as its Man of the Year in January, the first Afro-American selected. But less than three weeks later, race riots swept through the North, beginning in Rochester, New York, and spreading to New York City, Chicago, and, by early August, Jersey City, New Jersey. Fortunately, the year ended on a positive edge for King, he received the Nobel Peace Prize, the second Afro-American honored (Lewis, 252).
In 1965, the nation was also now well into a foreign war that would exhaust resources to progress social circumstances. King completed that after years of working with the thought of “reforming the existing institutions of the society, a little change here, a little change there,” it was time for major changes (Lewis, 254). “The cities of America must be rebuilt so that the poor could live decently and work productively in them” (254).
Resistance caused him to hesitate on the war issue, but ultimately King’s choice of a new direction turned on the innermost point of his moral perception of his role. “Racism and poverty were evils; it if meant embracing controversial positions and allies to eradicate them, conscience left him no other choice” (Lewis, 255) .
King called on “the politically weak, the economically deprived, the angry young of all races, and the disenchanted liberals” to come together as a convergence of action adequately commanding to force the progressive awareness of Washington (Lewis, 258).
King reflected populist politics at its most daring, in which he unified the “ethnically, economically, culturally, and geographically disparate for long-term objectives” (Lewis 258). “Our challenge is to organize the power we already have in our midst. Powerful enough, dramatic enough, morally appealing enough, so that people of goodwill, the churches, labor, liberals, intellectuals, students, poor people themselves” (258).
King’s fresh method, a “Popular Front of racially abused, economically deprived, and politically outraged, cutting across race and class,” was compelling (Lewis, 259). It was also an approach that exposed King at his ingenious greatest as a leader and established the realist who adjusts his sway for the better to create a base for cultured, fair, and genuine social progress.