General Question

JimTurner's avatar

In the context of America in general how important was Dr. Martin Luther King?

Asked by JimTurner (1360 points ) January 17th, 2014

Dr. King helped the African Americans in the deep south unlock the chains of oppression but yet there must be more than just that to his story.

He has a national holiday named after him. Just about every major city has a street resurrected in his honor. He has his own statue in Washington D.C.

What set this man apart from his contemporaries?

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21 Answers

filmfann's avatar

His embracing of Non-violence.
His giving the Black Communities a source of Pride; a hero.
His suffering, which made those who watched, feel shame.
His message of fairness in the form of Christian teachings.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

He WAS America, or at least what America was supposed to be.

JLeslie's avatar

He was fighting for the impoverished more than anything. His message gets muddled, because he was black and his fight was intertwined with civil rights. Black people are, and especially were, disporportionately poor, so being poor and being black were issues that were inseparable.

I agree he was what America is supposed to be. We are supposed to be nonviolent, use civil processes to bring on change, take each person on their own merit regardless of their race and regardless of their family name and the social class they were born into. You ask what sets him apart? Who do you feel is his contemporaries? Who really compares to the message he had, and his ability to be heard by the masses? Part of it has to do with time and place, but it also has to do with the man himself and his vision, patience, and charisma. I guess in some ways the public chose him to represent the movement at the time. He is the face of it, and it is well deserved.

JimTurner's avatar

Not sure how many more will answer this thread but you first three who have answered are spot on.

The news seems to be always telling us that we can’t all get along but Dr. King understood the human spirit which we all share.

Thank you for expressing that today right off the bat.

KNOWITALL's avatar

“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

The man was very brave & wise, I really respect that, especially for a black man at that point in history.

“A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dutchess_III's avatar

He helped far more people than just those in the Deep South.

He was also a womanizer! But Coretta stood by him. That was one hell of a woman in her own right.

1TubeGuru's avatar

I honestly believe that Dr. King was the single most influential American of the past century.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III I didn’t realize he was a womanizer. I have to research that. I’ll have to bringnthatbup the next time people start babbling about how Clinton fooling around was worthy of impeachment and that when people cheat you can’t trust them in any realm. I’m not sure why his wife is a hell of a woman for standing by him. He wielded a lot of power, it gave her position also. Women back then tended to stay with their husbands.

flo's avatar

@Dutchess_III I am not sure @KNOWITALL meant that she was one hell of a woman because she stood by him though. At least that wouldn’t be what I would mean.

ETpro's avatar

I place him on the same plane with Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Lech Walesa as modern humanists of great impact who achieved human rights via peaceful means. Interesting, isn’t it, that we have 3 men of color and 1 white guy in a century.

DWW25921's avatar

He was the only Republican I’d vote for if he was still alive.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

@Dutchess_III, @JLeslie, Coretta Scott King was one of the most influential women leaders of her time. She wend on after her husband’s death to carry on the work he had begun, along with other civil rights leaders of the time. I believe she owns a spot in history in her own right.

As far as Dr. King, it should be recognized that many of his successes (as well as those of his organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Council), occurred in spite of direct and active opposition by J. Edgar Hoover, then head of the FBI. I’ve heard many times over the years that Hoover had bugged Dr. King’s hotel rooms and recorded some extra-marital liaisons, which he used as blackmail to try to convince King to commit suicide, as chronicled in this article in Mother Jones magazine.

@ETpro, I would also add Russell Means to that pantheon.

flutherother's avatar

He united America. He made it face up to its own high principles. He believed his cause was greater than himself. You can’t say that about many politicians.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

@flutherother Of course, he wasn’t a politician, at least not at first. He was a man of the cloth who followed his religious and moral convictions (in spite of his humanity) to become a great leader.

JLeslie's avatar

@Yetanotheruser I wasn’t questioning Correta King’s influence and strength as a historical figure, I just don’t understand people associating whether a woman stays or leaves her husband when he has an affair as strong or not. Some people stay out of weakness, some from strength. Whatever the reasons, I always feel we can’t really know the relationship between a married couple. What keeps them together, the agreements they have, the difficulties the love.

Interesting about the liasons. I would assume his wife knew about at least some of them, because it is hard for a wife not to know if it goes on regularly. But, since Martin Luther King was a Baptist Minister that sort of news would be a problem. Plus, how does it play trying to fight for equality and wanting all people to be treated with respect and then to look like he was disrespecting his committment before God and his assembly to his wife. Looking hypocritical.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@flo @Dutchess_III Heck no, I don’t respect womanizer’s nor the women who put up with them. I’m still mad at Hillary for not calling him out publicly, and I voted for the turkey (Clinton.)

Dutchess_III's avatar

@JLeslie She was a hell of a woman in her own right. That’s all I’m saying.

josie's avatar

I only know what I read. And I was just reading about him, and his relationship with the Kennedy’s. (JFK’s wife didn’t like him according to one author)

He deserves to be held in high regard. He took a position, made a difference, and got killed for it.

Not real sure about the Monday holiday however. Seems like a cheap political gift to get votes, like Labor Day.

CWOTUS's avatar

In the context of “America in general” we are all important.

Yeah, I know how it sounds, naive and boyish and idealistic and all that. But that is the thing about the United States: no peons; no nobodies; no serfs. It’s a nation of individuals, and we are all important, if only to ourselves and for ourselves.

Dr. King helped to remind some of us, or to get the point across to those who didn’t already know, that that is the case with everyone in this country, and not just those who were born to “extra privileges” because of their race, and that people are all important (or “each” might be a better word there) no matter where they came from or who their parents were.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think anyone who takes a stand knowing that sooner or later that stand is going to get them killed, you just don’t know when or how, is pretty damned unique and brave.

One of the stories, he was at a book signing, and a deranged black lady stabbed him in the chest with a letter opener. It was so close to his heart that if he had freaked out in any way it would have penetrated his heart. I saw the picture for the first time in Coretta Scotts King’s biography “My Life With Martin Luther King.”

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

He lived what he believed and taught a generation and more to do the same.

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