martin luther king jr speech 2

Martin Luther King, Jr

He called Selma « a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom » on a par with the Battle of Appomattox in the American Civil War. Johnson added that his entire Great Society program, not only the voting rights bill, was part of the Civil Rights Movement. Johnson’s voting rights bill was formally introduced in Congress two days later. Finding resistance by white officials to be intractable, even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended legal segregation, the DCVL invited Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the activists of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to join them. SCLC brought many prominent civil rights and civic leaders to Selma in January 1965.

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Born Malcolm Little in 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska, he grew up in Michigan, Boston, and New York. As a young adult, Little became involved in a life of crime and violence for which he was jailed for several years. While in prison he joined the Nation of Islam 1 and changed his name to Malcolm X. Under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad, the Nation of Islam made inroads into black communities in the urban North by advocating a program of self-help, black separatism, and black nationalism. In the 1950s, the Nation of Islam grew in popularity in these communities and began to challenge long held beliefs in integration and reconciliation. Malcolm X challenged advocates of nonviolence and declared that blacks could not be expected to respond nonviolently when attacked.

He was shot and killed while speaking in New York City on February, 21, 1965. The knowledge that Dr. King gave his life to the cause lends an added poignancy to the experience of hearing his speeches today. The March on Washington and Dr. King’s “Dream” speech would play an important role in helping pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the pivotal Selma to Montgomery march that he led in 1965 would provide momentum for the passage later that year of the Voting Rights Act. Though Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, his exhausting schedule and his frustration with schisms in the civil rights movement and increasing violence in the country led to growing weariness and depression before his assassination in 1968.

Subsequently, voter registration drives were organized in black-majority areas across the South, but it took time to get the target population to sign up. On March 15, the president convened a joint session of Congress, outlined his new voting rights bill, and demanded that they pass it. In a historic presentation carried nationally on live television, making use of the largest media network, Johnson praised the courage of African-American activists.

Local and regional protests began, with 3,000 people arrested by the end of February. President Lyndon Johnson between the years 1965 and 1969, the President viewed King as an essential partner in getting the Voting Rights Act enacted. The Selma to Montgomery marches were three protest marches, held in 1965, along the 54-mile highway from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital of Montgomery. By highlighting racial injustice, they contributed to passage that year of the Voting Rights Act, a landmark federal achievement of the civil rights movement. Malcolm X’s views challenged Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent tradition of the civil rights movement.

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