“Mahatma Gandhi inspired and motivated people around the world, including Martin Luther King Jr., one of the most prominent civil rights leaders. King gained much information about Gandhi through his writings, and by visiting India in 1959. In his rise to civil rights activist, King was heavily influenced and influenced by Gandhi’s principle of non-violence. Martin Luther King and Gandhi were never able to meet, but both men adored Gandhi’s teachings for India.
Mahatma Gandhi had visited South Africa to study law, and to advocate for civil rights of Indians. The discrimination and racial separation faced by Indian immigrants in South Africa when Gandhi arrived was immediately evident. Gandhi refused to take off his turban when he first appeared in Durban’s courtroom. He left instead. He was mocked by the Natal Advertiser and called “unwelcome visitor.” In response, he founded the Natal Indian Congress to combat discrimination. Gandhi’s first mass civil disobedience campaign was organized in 1906. He called it “Satyagraha”.
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Gandhi’s idea of freedom was Satyagraha. It is a technique that means “truth-force” and became a dominant strategy in India’s freedom fight. Satyagraha is a way to pursue truth and love, but not participate in things that are wrong or contrary to them. He advised Indians to buy Indian goods rather than British goods. Gandhi advocated passive resistance. He believed that violence against the British provoked only a negative response, whereas passive resistance pushed the British to do something which invariably drove more people to support the Indian National Congress movement (Gandhi and Non-Cooperation). This principle guided Gandhi’s activism against Britain and helped India achieve independence in 1947.
King met Gandhian ideas for the first time while he was studying at Crozer Seminary. King, a Christian, connected Hindu followers with the Biblical call to Jesus. King was familiar with peaceful civil disobedience. He liked Gandhi’s idea of oppressed people using truth and love to fight for justice. King was a Baptist minister in America and a leader of the African-American Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Martin Luther King was a champion for civil liberty for African-Americans living in the United States of America.
Like Gandhi, his weapons were faith in God, and nonviolence. After Rosa Parks was kicked from a bus and taken into custody for refusing to go to the back of the bus for a white man, King had a plan for boycotting the bus system in South Carolina. King organized a 13-month-long mass protest against segregation in public buses and showed how unconstitutional it was. The Montgomery Improvement Association was the coordinator of the boycott. Martin Luther King, Jr. became an internationally recognized civil rights leader when international attention was on Montgomery.
The bus boycott proved that nonviolent mass protests can succeed in challenging racial discrimination. It also served as an example to other southern campaigns. King wrote Stride Toward Freedom that the true meaning of the Montgomery bus boycott was to foster self-respect and animate civil rights struggles. He had borrowed the idea from Gandhi. King stated that Gandhi taught him his operational techniques. However, Gandhi may have had political and strategic reasons to pursue a nonviolent campaign. He added, “I believe Gandhi’s inherit Hindu faith was the ultimate motivator.”
He was also elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He led the fight against segregation in Albany with the SCLC. In October 1961, the Albany movement was launched to end all forms segregation in Albany. However, it also focused on desegregation at traveling facilities. King and other protestors used mass demonstrations like sit-ins, sit-ins, boycotts and hearings. More than 500 protestors were arrested by King in December 1961. African Americans urged King to help them with their campaign.
King arrived in Albany on the 15th of December 1961 and gave a speech at Shiloh Baptist Church. King was arrested the next day along with hundreds of other black citizens on charges of parading and blocking the sidewalk. King was quickly arrested. This incident attracted national attention. City officials, including members of SCLC, agreed that King would leave Albany if the ruling was followed and the city would release the protesters on bail. King fled Albany. The city failed to keep its settlement, and the protests continued well into 1962. King was grieved by the rejection of Kings’ idea of nonviolence by Black power advocates and reaffirmed his commitment to nonviolence.
Martin Luther King Jr. led another famous protest in Birmingham in 1963. He used sit-ins, boycotts, and marches against segregation, unfair hiring practices, and other injustices in one the most racially marginalized cities in America. King was arrested on April 12th for his association. He also wrote the document “Letter From Birmingham”. King was later arrested for his association on April 12th, where he wrote the document known as the “Letter from Birmingham”.
About 200,00 to 300,00 people of all races attended the March on Washington on August 28th. This was the breaking point in American civil rights history and a major influence on the opening of Civil Rights Act 1964. He had given his famous speech, “I Have a Dream,” here. It was here that many considered it a masterpiece in oratory. Standing on the steps to the Lincoln Memorial, he shared his vision for a future where all men are equal. King’s reputation at home and abroad was shaped by his speech and march. He was later named “Man Of The Year” by TIME magazine in 1962 and became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
King’s arrest in 1965 drew international attention to the violence between white segregationists, peaceful demonstrators, and police officers in Selma (Alabama), where the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee organized an election registration campaign. This horrific scene was captured on TV and shocked many Americans. It inspired supporters from across the country to come to Alabama to join King’s Selma-to-Montgomery march. This march was supported and promoted by President Lyndon B. Johnson who sent federal troops to maintain peace.
King used his platform as a platform to address issues such as the Vietnam War and poverty among Americans across all races. King and the SCLC embarked in 1967 on a program called the Poor People’s Campaign. This included a large march on Washington. SCLC and King planned for 2,00 people from underprivileged backgrounds to visit Washington, D.C. to meet with officials and demand fair minimum wages, education for children and jobs. Some felt King’s campaign was too ambitious and that the demands were too rigid.
King would not see the campaign through. Martin Luther King was assassinated on the evening of April 4, 1968. A wave of riots broke out in major cities across the country after his death. President Johnson declared a national holiday of mourning.
Gandhi and King encouraged their marchers towards creative and emancipating love for all. It is not friendship. But it does not make any distinction between worthy and unworthy persons. With the spirit of forgiveness, they strive to respect every person as sacred. Gandhi and King expressed their love for the unknowable, their belief that each person is sacred and their respect for the requirements of a moral code. They stated that civil disobedience should be done in a loving, nonviolent manner with an eye to achieving systemic changes as well as transforming the mind of the enemy. Although both activists shared similar beliefs about social and racial inequality, each activist had their own way of gathering people around them to fight these issues. Martin Luther King Jr. adopted Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence. King’s nonviolent campaign was based on love in action and his teachings were exemplary of this.
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