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Martin Luther King Jr.

Leader of the American Civil Rights Movement


By: Lovette Chan


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights activist who helped lead the Civil Rights Movement from the mid 1950s until his assassination in 1968. His dream was to stop segregation between white and black people and gain equality for everyone.

In 1955, he became one of the leaders of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which was a prominent event in the Civil Rights Movement. He helped lead the boycott, which was non-violent because all the people were doing was not using the buses. In the end, it was successful and the Supreme Court ruled out that it was unconstitutional to separate people based on their race. King gained a lot of support from the black community using nonviolent methods and the boycott opened paths to future changes. He showed that one can be a leader and change things without using violence.

In 1963, King and the SCLC wanted to end segregation in Birmingham, Alabama, so they launched a campaign similar to the Montgomery Boycott. In a nonviolent manner, people boycotted against businesses who refused to hire people because of their race. This showed King's nonviolent leadership once again, and that he was a leader that took action to achieve his goals.

Later in 1963, King worked with others to organize the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom," which demanded political and economical justice to everyone. This is also when King shared his vision with his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Great leaders like King have big visions and try their hardest to achieve them. The march contributed majorly to the Civil Rights Act, which was passed in 1964.

How He Showed Leadership:

In 1957, King and several other civil activists established the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to carry out the goal of desegregating cities in a similar fashion to the Montgomery campaign. This showed that he was a leader who didn't want to stop at just one success. He was a leader who was wanted to achieve even more.

King made one of the greatest and most powerful speeches called "I Have a Dream" during the 1963 March on Washington. Through his speeches, he inspired others and showed that he was a leader that had great visions of the future.

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3 Leadership Traits

No.1 : Courage is not the absence of fear- it's inspiring others to move beyond it

King was a leader who showed great courage by standing up to thousands of people to declare his dream. His numerous speeches and involvement in civil rights inspired others to hope and become fearless. King wanted to stop segregation and gain equal rights for everyone, and this took a lot of courage because he was African American and at that time, there was heavy racial discrimination. His house was even bombed at one point, but he assured his followers, "Be calm as I and my family are. We are not hurt and remember that if anything happens to me, there will be others to take my place." He also got stabbed and got arrested thirty times, but he never gave up and continued to strive for his goal of equal rights.

No.2 : Lead from the front - but don't leave your base behind

King had many loyal followers who truly believed that he would be the one to stop segregation with his nonviolent leadership. He fought for equal rights along with his followers. For example, King marched with and led his followers to protest in the March on Washington and Selma-Montgomery march.

No.6 : Appearances matter - and remember to smile

King was a great speaker and when making public appearances, he always wore a nice suit and smile.


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