“America Became Desegregated Because Of King”

 Prof. Elvis Ngolle Ngolle, Political Scientist.

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Junior made the famous “I have a dream” speech in Washington DC. What informed such a historic public outing?

The speech came at a time America was in the throes of a civil rights movement that was led mostly by blacks who were inspired by their faith in Baptist Christian teachings. Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Junior himself was a Southern Baptist minister who believed in the principles and philosophy of non-violence as conceived by the late Indian leader, Mahatma Gandhi. The philosophy teaches that in order to better your condition in life, you do not have to use violence. Martin Luther was a minister with strong faith who believed in an America without slavery and discrimination, equality of all races, equal opportunities for all, better future for everyone, and a nation where people are not judged according to skin colour. He appealed to American whites and blacks alike to rally together to oblige the Federal government, federated states and industry to change their discriminatory policies. He believed that the country would be better off if everyone was treated equally. The speech was therefore a defining moment in the African-American struggle for equality in voting, employment, social mobility rights, etc. “I have a dream” galvanized black and white Americans around the principle of equality and justice – including blacks all over the world.

Five years after, Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. What has since changed in terms of the wishes he listed in his speech in 1963? And what still remains to be achieved?

Because of the strength of Martin Luther’s charisma, his capacity to mobilize whites and blacks, the non-violence philosophy he preached and its attraction to people of all races, American laws began to change at the federal and federated state levels, giving voting rights to blacks. Equal opportunity laws were introduced in industry, social work and schools. America became desegregated in spite of Martin Luther King’s assassination. Discrimination was eliminated in public and private sectors. African-Americans began to be considered as equal to whites and saw themselves as belonging to their nation.
In all sectors, African-Americans began having the same opportunities like whites. All this was achieved through non-violence means. Remember, there was an alternative to Martin Luther King’s non-violent civil rights movement. For example, the Black Panther Movement believed in employing violence, but never succeeded. One of the biggest gains of Martin Luther’s campaign is that a black, Barack Obama, eventually became President of the United States in January 2009. Before Rev. Dr Martin Luther King’s campaign, this could not be possible. It was therefore thanks to the end of racial segregation and discrimination that black emancipation became reality in America.

Fifty years after Martin Luther King’s assassination, what remains to be done from the wish list of his “I have a dream” speech of 1963?

There is much to be done because some 30 to 40 per cent of American whites still believe in di...

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