Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Martin Luther King, Jr.

African-American Civil Rights leaderI have a dream my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. On August 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the African-American civil-rights movement reached its high-water mark when Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to the over 200,000 people attending his March on Washington. The demonstrators--black and white, poor and rich--had come to the nation's capital to demand voting rights and equal opportunity for African Americans, and to appeal for an end to racial segregation and discrimination. With the statue of the Great Emancipator behind him, King, evoked the incomparable speaking talents he had developed while a Baptist preacher to articulate how the ‘Negro is still not free.’ He told of the struggle ahead, the importance of nonviolence, and then he spoke of his dream of the future. The famous ‘I Have a Dream’ passage of the address was actually improvised by King, who departed from his planned speech midway to make oratory history. In the year after the March on Washington, the civil rights movement achieved two of its greatest successes: the ratification of the Twenty-fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished the poll tax and thus a barrier to poor African-American voters in the South, and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited racial discrimination in employment and education, and outlawed racial segregation in public facilities. On October 14, 1964, Martin Luther King, who was increasingly regarded as not only a symbol of the civil rights movement but of America itself, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Four years later, he was killed by a sniper's bullet while standing on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee.


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