Written by a scholar, this book begins with August 28, 1963 when in Washington DC, more than two lakh people held the largest demonstration in American history around the Lincoln Memorial. On the steps, a short distance away from brooding statue, the ?Great Emancipator?, the last speaker of the day took the microphone to address the mammoth crowd. He was the son and grandson of preachers, who were descendants of slaves freed in the time of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. He was the man around whom much of the civil rights movement in the US had turned?Martin Luther King, Jr. He was only 34-years old then and it was a momentous occasion?momentous because the people of the US came face to face with its age-old problem of race relations. ?If human slavery as an institution had been crushed by the Civil War, many legal and social freedoms of Black individuals had not yet been achieved.?
If fateful occurrences had not intervened, he would likely have followed his father as a long-term pastor in a church, or taken up a teaching profession at a major university. But the young preacher from Atlanta, Georgia was set to establish history. With the gifts of dynamic oratory, energy, imagination and a sense of mission, King led marches and demonstrations and boycotts across the South. Among an extraordinary gathering of people from across the country gathered to say ?yes? to the movement for human rights and liberties, Martin Luther King spoke of a dream: ?I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ?We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all are created equal.?
?I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood? I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. ?I have a dream today.?
This book is an introduction to the foremost leader of the civil rights movement. Born on January 15, 1929, in a middle-class family, which adopted the name Martin Luther after the German religious leader whose writings and work launched the Protestant Reformation, the great religious revolt of the 16th century. At an early age of four, Martin was encouraged by his mother to sing with various church groups. He even wrote later, ?The church has always been a second home for me. As far aback as I can remember, I was in church every Sunday?.My best friends were in Sunday School and it was the Sunday School that helped me to build my capacity for getting along with people.?
King joined the church at the age of five but later in life he talked about the gnawing doubts about religious messages and impulses that were part of his everyday life. He accepted biblical studies uncritically until he was 12-years old. But this did not last long ?for it was contrary to the very nature of my being. I had always been the questioning and precocious type. At the age of 13, I shocked my Sunday School by denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Doubts began to spring forth unrelentingly.?
As a 14-year old boy, on his way back form school, he experienced first-hand the kind of senseless, painful humiliation against which his family had been speaking against for many years. The White bus driver cursed King and his fellow Black students for occupying seats reserved for White passengers and to avoid a confrontation, the speech coach asked the students to give in to the demand.
Later King read many books on Mahatma Gandhi and wrote that Gandhi by cutting the chain of hatred, had lifted the love ethic of Christ to an effective social force. ?The Gandhian philosophy of non-violence is the only logical and moral approach to the solution of the race problem in the United States.?
Here it may be noted that years later at the time of King'sdeath, his wallet contained a small, torn piece of paper with a quote from Gandhi, ?In the midst of death, life persists?In the midst of darkness, light persists.? And King was determined to prove this to be right.
The violent reactions and hatred of many Whites for those seeking racial justice tend to shock even today. Against all this Martin Luther King is portrayed to lift up the Americans even if it meant martyrdom. Blacks could not be satisfied till ?justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream?, to quote Martin Luther King.
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