Martin Luther King Jr

Martin Luther King Jr and other civil rights activists.
The bus on which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat.
Rosa Parks.
The crowd before which Martin Luther King Jr gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington D.C.

Great dedication to the cause of civil rights and spectacular oratory skills made Martin Luther King Jr the civil rights leader with the highest profile. His rise to fame, though, quite interestingly, started with the actions of another famous person in the civil rights movement: Rosa Parks.

Rosa Parks and a bus boycott

In Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white person. Because Parks was a prominent person in the local black community, this sparked a protest movement against segregation and unequal treatment on city buses, which Martin Luther King Jr was chosen to lead. King and other civil rights leaders convinced African Americans to carpool, walk or ride their bikes around Montgomery rather than go by bus, actions which drastically decreased bus company revenues. Furthermore, despite death threats against key people involved, civil rights activists filed suit to challenge the constitutionality of Montgomery-style bus segregation.

In November of 1956, much to the protesters’ satisfaction, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Montgomery’s bus services violated the right to equal protection of the law, and ordered the city buses to be desegregated. King’s method of peaceful resistance had prevailed, and King himself, by leading the year-long bus boycott, had risen to nationwide fame.

”I Have a Dream”

Years after the Montgomery bus campaign, in 1963, King iterated the importance of keeping the civil rights struggle peaceful in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which he held before a quarter of a million people in Washington D.C. In the same speech, he also underscored his dream that people in the United States should not to be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

For his determined work to combat racial inequality through non-violent means — work that stretched from street activism to public speeches — Martin Luther King Jr received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Tragically though, four years after King had received the prestigious prize, he was murdered.

Plagiarism in a doctoral dissertation

Somewhat aside from his struggle to create a more equal society, Martin Luther King Jr was both a reverend and had a doctor’s degree in theology from Boston University. Therefore, he was often referred to as Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. However, a committee of scholars appointed by Boston University decades after King’s death found substantial plagiarism in King’s doctoral dissertation. Though not taking anything away from Martin Luther King Jr’s impressive record as a civil rights leader, this finding has caused some people to question his judgement in other areas.