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3. Martin Luther King's childhood and youth
4. The bus-boycott
5. A attempt on Martin's life, the Sit-ins and the freedom-riders
6. The March on Washington
7. The fight for the right to vote
8. Martin Luther King's dead
Mention of sources used
Frederik Hetmann Martin Luther King Cecilie Dressler Verlag, Hamburg 1979 Valerie Schloredt & Pam Brown Martin Luther King Arena Verlag Georg Popp, Würzburg 1989
I decided to write about Martin Luther King, because I think it is very interesting what the blacks in America tried to become free at all. I believe Martin L. King tried in to fight for more rights for the black people in a good way. Now, I would like to tell you more about slavery, the situation of blacks and, of course, Martin Luther King.
For thousands of white people America meant freedom, hope and the possibility to start a new life. For many blacks, however, it meant the way to a hard life in slavery. For the white the blacks were good slaves because they were accustomed to do hard work when it is hot, and it was easy to control them.
The white people needed slaves to do the hard work on the cotton and tobacco plantations. Especially in the southern states there were plantations everywhere.
In special ships the slaves were brought from Africa to America. They were lying tied up side by side. There were no toilets for the blacks on the ship and because of that many of them became ill and died on the ship. Some of them were badly injured, because they fought for their freedom. Their villages were attacked suddenly when they slept. Then they were brought to the ships. Sometimes 100 to 130 out of 150 slaves on these ships died because of hunger on other kinds of illnesses.
The slaves were tortured by the white people. When they were tired, they still had to work, and they were hit with a whip, so they worked as hard as they could. The slaves were worth less than animals, and the owner could do everything with them. If their owner was friendly some of them were liked as a dog, if their owner was inhuman they were injured or killed by him.
In 1865 the government ordered to finish the slavery and made the Blacks free.
But after that the Blacks were not free at all. They did not have the same rights than the white people.
They lived in dirty hats on the outskirts of the cities. They were not accepted as real people, they were still second-class persons.
Especially in the south States of America life was sometimes harder for them than for their ancestors 100 years before.
The black people were called "Nigger" and no matter how clever they were the white people thought they were lazy, stupid and liars.
The blacks had separate fountains to drink, separate toilets and schools. They were not allowed to eat in the same restaurants as the whites and in busses they had to sit down in the back part because the front part was only for whites. There were different churches for the white and the black people, as if god would also think they were people of the second class. Radical whites established a terrible organisation: the Ku Klux Klan. This clan hung blacks for example if a black man loved a white woman they turned the man out of his house. Then they brought him in the streets and killed him there. When they had their celebrations they wear white, pointed caps and white dresses. This clan still exists. It is illegal, but many police officers and politicians think the Ku Klux Klan does the right.
The government always said that they would change the situation of Blacks, but nothing happened for a long time.
3. Martin Luther King childhood and youth
On January 15th, 1929 Martin Luther King was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta is in the South of the USA. In the southern states the segregation was worse than in the other states because the slaves had to work on the cotton and tobacco plantations in the South. When Martin was a small boy he felt the segregation. He was not allowed to play with white children and everywhere he saw the signs: "WHITES ONLY". But his Daddy, a priest of the Baptist church was a brave man. He once said: "No matter how long I have to live with and suffer from this system, I'll never accept it! I will fight against this until I die!"
When Martin was six years old he listened to the words of a preacher. After that he said to his parents: " Someday I will also find as big words as this man!"
Martin was lucky because when he was 15, he could go to the collage. Not every black had this change, and Martin did his best.
Daddy King asked Martin if he would like to become a priest, too. But Martin first did not want. Later he decided however to do that. When he was 17 he became a priest and after that he helped his father.
Martin had many girlfriends when he studied in Pennsylvania. But he loved no of them so much that he could imagine to marry her. When he met Coretta Scott, however, he fell in love, and said her that he liked to marry her. On June 18th, 1953, his father made them to a married couple.
They moved to Montgomery in Alabama, where Coretta had been born. Martin worked as priest. The people who came to his church felt that Martin was a very good preacher. Sometimes he almost whispered and sometimes he shouted through the church. His speeches were sometimes full of dramatic, sometimes full of feelings. His community liked him. In Alabama life was very hard for blacks, but Martin and Coretta thought they must try to change the situation of blacks. And both had lived in the South when they had been children. In the spring of 1955 Martin got the title of a doctor. From now on he was called Dr. King or Reverend King.
But he was not only happy about the title, he was also happy, because his first child was born. This was the first child out of four children.
4. The Bus-Boycott
As I have said at the beginning of this essay black were not allowed to sit down in the front part of the busses. In the first four rows only white people could sit down. There was a sign saying: "Only Whites". In the middle part of the busses' blacks were allowed to sit down, if there would be no Whites who wanted to sit down there. But if one white person wanted to sit down there all blacks who had decided to sit down there had to stand up. In the back part the blacks could sit down, but if there was a white person that wanted to sit down there they had to stand up for the white. But almost only blacks used the busses. There were no black bus- drivers in Montgomery. The blacks had to pay for their bus-ticket in the front part at the driver. Then they had to get out of the bus and get on it at the back door again. So they did not go through the area for the whites. And if they had pitch the bus went away before they had get on again.
On December 21st, 1955 Rosa Parks, a black woman, went home by bus in the evening. She was tired because she had worked the whole day. She and three other blacks sat in the middle part of the bus. A few stations after she had get on the bus some whites got on. One white man had no seat, so the bus-driver went to Mrs. Parks and the three other blacks and said: "I need these seats." No one of the four blacks moved and so he said: "You better stand of quick and give me these seats." After he had said that three blacks stood up, but Mrs. Parks did not stand up. Again the bus-driver talked to her: "Will you final stand up? If you don't do that I will take you to jail." But Mrs. Parks did not move. She was tired and she thought that one man only had needed one seat. She did not want to be the victim of segregation anymore. She said to the bus-driver: Come on, then you can take me even to jail. So the bus-driver fetched a policeman who took Rosa Parks to jail.
Because of this event the blacks started to boycott the busses. Some of some had thought about a boycott even before Mrs. Parks did not stand up and now everybody was angry. Mrs. Parks was known as a friendly person, who worked hard, so the others thought they must help her.
They prepared the bus-boycott by talking to some taxi-enterprises. They pleased them to take the blacks with their cabs for the price that they had to pay for the bus. The priests who prepared the boycott told the others about it during the public worship on Sunday and some blacks gave papers with the story about Rosa Parks and their plans to the other blacks. On Monday, December 5th, 1955 the bus-boycott started. In the Morning Martin Luther King was nervous, because he thought that everybody would go by bus as usual. But when he saw the first bus he was happy. This bus had always been full of blacks, but today it was empty. During the morning Martin went through the streets of Montgomery, the blacks smiled when they saw him. Some of them walked, others went by taxi, shared a car with some other blacks, went by hitch-hike and rode on donkeys or horses. In this afternoon the blacks make a new organisation, the Montgomery Improvement Association, this organisation had to look after the boycott. They voted Martin as their president. He had to talk to the crowd, which should come in the evening to Holt Street Baptist church.
On this evening he spoke about the segregation in the busses. He said to the blacks that only if they all fight without violence against the segregation they could change the situation. After he had finished his speech the people applauded and sang. They had seen for the first time such a great leader Martin Luther King was.
The Blacks had three demands, and only if the whites would accept them, they would stop the boycott.
1)The bus-drivers are polite to blacks
2)The people who go by bus sit down like they get on the bus. Blacks start in the back part, whites in the front part.
3)The Bus organisation engage black bus-drivers for the busses who go through the areas where blacks live.
The bus-boycott went on, because the bus-organisation did not accept the demands. They laughed and said: "When the first rainy day comes the blacks will go by bus again. But the blacks did not go by bus again, they knew that they did not have use any bus if they would change the situation.
So the rulers forbade the taxis to take people with them for the bus price. But the blacks chose some who had a car, to fetch some blacks and bring them to work. The "stations" were the churches. But the rulers stopped their cars without any reasons, told the blacks who were waiting for the cars that they, if they do not go away, could be taken to jail.
Martin Luther King came to jail, because it was said to him that the drove too fast. After a few hours he was free again, because he paid the caution.
Some whites blackmailed Martin and his family, he often got forty blackmail-letters during one day. When Martin spoke on a mass-meeting, somebody threw a bomb on his house. Thank God nobody was hurt. But in front of his house there were many blacks. Some of them had weapons: Guns, knives and broken bottles. Martin said to them: "My wife and my baby are well. I'd like that you all go home and take your weapons away. We can't solve this problem with requital and hate. We have to meet the hate with love. Think of this, if they kill me they can't stop our movement, because God is with us." After he had said that the crowd went away, so he had save the life of every white person who were there. It seemed that the boycott would never end. But the blacks walked the whole cold winter. But because the rulers wanted to win against them, the looked for an old law, which forbid boycotts. They found one and accused Martin Luther King and 88 other blacks. But the in the jury that decided what should happen with Martin Luther King there were no black person. His lawyers made immediately an appeal. So no of 89 could be condemn While that happened the Improvement Association tried to prove that the segregation in the busses is against the state of the USA is. It was a very slow process, but it was the last that they could do.
Like that months passed and the blacks walked, although the summer was very hot. And now the rulers forbid the private cars who transported the blacks. Even Martin Luther King lost the hope that they could win.
While Martin was at the dish, to listen to what the people say against the cars, when somebody told him that the highest dish had decided that the segregation in busses is not allowed. But Martin knew that their fight was not finished at all. The Ku Klux Klan walked through the streets, but the blacks were not frightened. When the blacks finally used the busses again, some whites abused and hurt them. The Baptist church in which they had often met, was burned by white people. In the same night three other churches, two houses of priests were burned, too. Next to Martin Luther King's house some pieces of smoking dynamite were found.
Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks were the first two people who got on a bus without segregation in Montgomery. After December 21st, 1956 there were no more segregated busses in Montgomery.
This was only a beginning, because the blacks in other states fought against the segregation, too. And Martin Luther King helped them. He had to talk on many meetings. 1956 and 1957 he talked 208 times to blacks.
5. A attempt of Martin's life, the Sit-ins and the freedom-riders
While Martin Luther King was signing his book "Stride toward Freedom" a black woman went to him and took a sharp paper-knife in his chest. He came to hospital and with an operation the weapon was taken away. It was very dangerous for him because the paper-knife was only a few millimetres away from an aorta. But he stayed alive.
Later in this year Martin finished his work in Montgomery and went with his family to Atlanta. There he worked with his father in the Ebenezer Baptist Church. As the blacks in Montgomery boycotted the busses some students boycotted a snack bar, because a black student did not get any dish in this bar. These protests were called "Sit-ins", because the black students sat at the counter, but they never got something to eat. Martin Luther King also went to some of these Sit-ins. When he once sat there with the students, he and 75 other blacks were taken to jail.
During the summer of the year 1961 some groups of black and white students went with their busses from the North to the South. They were called "Freedom-Riders". When the first group of the freedom-Riders arrived in Alabama some groups of the Ku Klux Klan were waiting for them. The white-dressed people hit the students very hard, but the freedom-riders did not use violence.
One evening Martin talked in a church in Montgomery about the Freedom-Riders, as a group of white rascals burned outdoors some cars, they broke the windows and threw stones and bombs with tear gas in the church, but the police came and saved the community. In Birmingham Martin and other blacks tried to end the segregation with boycotts and Sit-ins. The blacks did not have the same jobs and the government did not want to change the situation. They also made marches for freedom. On these marches children, young people, adults and old people went through the streets. They were singing songs for freedom, when the police and the fire brigade stopped them with wild dogs and big water-hoses. The water was so strong that threw people away destroyed clothes and hurt people. But they blacks could not be stopped: On the next day they walked through the streets again.
When they came to the fire brigade and policemen they stopped and kneed down to pray.
When they stood up again, they were able to go on, because the rascals did not do anything.
6. The March on Washington and the "I have a dream" speech
On August 28th, 1963 there was a March to Washington. It should remain everybody that there was no slavery in America for 100 years. 250,000 black and white people went peacefully to Washington. Many important people spoke to the crowd on this day. They stood next to the statue of Abraham Lincoln, and it seemed as if he the big fighter for freedom would listen to them.
When Martin Luther King talked to the people, they were enthusiastic. And so he put away this written speech and he said what he thought of in this moment. It was the greatest and most known speech he had ever spoken. It was a speech which has gone down in history.
"I am happy to join (teilnehmen) with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years (100 Jahre) ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the/ Emancipation Proclamation (This paper gave blacks the same rights as whites ). This momentous decree (bedeutsame Erlaß) came as a great bacon light (Leuchtfeuer) of hope to a million of Negro slaves who had been seared (gebrandmarkt) in the flames of withering injustice (vernichtender Ungerechtigkeit). It came as a joyous daybreak (freudiger Tagesanbruch) to the end of the long night of their captivity (Gefangenschaft).
But one hundred years, the Negro is still not free; one hundred years later, the life of a Negro is still sadly crippled (verkrüppelt) by the manacles (Fesseln) of segregation and the chains (Ketten) of discrimination; one hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean (Mitte eines riesigen Ozeans) of material prosperity (materiellen Reichtums) ; one hundred years later the Negro is still languishing (schmachtet) in the corners of America society and finds himself in exile in his own land. So we've come here to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash (einlö sen) a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent (großartige) words of the Constitution (Verfassung) and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note (Schuldschein) to which every American was to fall heir . This note was the promises that all men, yes, black men as well as white men would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (Anspruch auf Glück).
It was obvious today that America has defaulted (erfüllen) on this promissory note in so far as their citizens of color (farbigen Bürger) are concerned (betroffen). Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a bad check which has come bad marked "insufficient funds"(,,Keine Deckung vorhanden"). We refuse to believe that there are insufficient fund in the great vaults of opportunity (Stahlkammern der Gelegenheiten) of this nation. And so we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand (auf Verlangen) the riches of freedom and the security (Sicherheit) of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency(grimmige Notwendigkeit) of now. This is no time to engage (erlauben) in the luxury of cooling (Luxus einer ,,Abkühlungsperiode") or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism (Beruhigungsmittel des langsamen Fortschritts). Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy; now is the time to rise (aufbrechen) from the dark and desolate (trostlosen) valley of segregation to the sunlight path of radical justice (Gerechtigkeit für alle Rassen) ; now it's time to lift our nation from the quicksand (Flugsand) of radical injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood; now It's time to make justice a reality for all God's children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency (Dringlichkeit) of the moment. This sweltering (heiße) summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent (berechtigten Unzufriedenheit) will not pass until there is an invigorating (belebender) autumn of freedom and equality (Gerechtigkeit). Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will not be content, will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.
There will be neither rest nor tranquillity (weder Ruhe noch Rast) in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights (seine vollen Bürgerrechte zugebilligt worden sind). The whirlwinds of revolt (Aufruhr) will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges (anbricht).
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold (abgenutzten Schwelle) which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining (erreichen) our rightful place we must not be guilty (schuldig ) of wrongful deeds.
Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst of freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred (Haß). We must forever conduct our struggle (unseren Kampf führen) on the high plane of dignity (Würde) and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate (herabsinken lassen) into physical violent. Again and again we must rise to the majestic height of meeting physical force with soul force.
The marvelous new militancy (wunderbare neue Geist) which has engulfed (erfaßt) the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced (beweist) by their presence (Anwesenheit) here today, have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. This offense (Verstoß) we share mounted (besteigend) to storm the battlements (Zinnen) of injustice must be carried forth by a biracial (zweirassigen) army. We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must take the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim (Opfer) of unspeakable horrors of police brutality.
We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with fatigue (müde) of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility (Bewegungsfreiheit) is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one.
We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by sign stating "for Whites only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness (Gerechtigkeit) like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful () that some of you have come here out of excessive trials and tribulation (großer Bedrängnis und Trübsal). Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest (Verlangen) for freedom left you battered (zerschlagen) by the storms of persecution and staggered (schockiert) by the winds of police brutality. You have been to the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive (hat erlö sende Qualität).
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and the ghettos of the northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can, and will be changed. Let us not wallow (Gefallen finden) in the valley of despair (Verzweiflung).
So I say to you my friends, that even thought we must face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream which is deeply rooted (verankert) in the American dream, that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed (Credo) -"We hold this truths to be self-evident (selbstverständlich), that all men are created equal (gleich) .
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and sons of slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression (Unterdrückung) , will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged (beurteilt) by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every mountain shall be made low, the rough places shall be made plain, and the crooked places shall be made straight and the glory of the Lord will be revealed (offenbar) and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords (schrillen Mißklänge) of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle (kämpfen) together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning "My country ` tis of thee (von dir) sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring." And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
So let freedom from the prodigious (gewaltigen) hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies in Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes (geschwungenen Hängen) of California. But not only that. Let freedom ring from the Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill (Maulwurfshügel) of Mississippi, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when We allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and hamlet (Weiler) , from every state and city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children-black man and white man, Jew and Gentiles (Heiden) , Catholics and Protestants-will be able to join hand in hand and to sing the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last, free at last, free at last; thank God Almighty. We are free at last."
7. The fight for the right to vote
After president Kennedy had been killed, it was very important for the blacks to vote a president who did not want that things stayed as they were. So everybody had to have the chance to vote. But although the blacks were official allowed to vote the whites always found a way that they did not vote. When they wanted to write their names down in the lists of the voters either there was a mistake in the papers or the office to do that was shut. 57 out of 280 blacks were able to write their names down to the papers, but no of these names came into the vote-lists.
In Mississippi three young workers were taken to jail and killed because they wanted to make sure that every black could write his name down in the list of the voters. In October 1964 King got the Peace Nobel prize, but he did not stop his work after that. He went to Selma in Alabama, where he and other blacks tried to get their right to vote, they all knew that they perhaps Had to go to jail, but they did not care about that. The police were very cruel with the demonstrators, one man was shot dead, against the others they fought with truncheons, whips and tear gas.
The fighter for the civil rights planes a march from Selma to Montgomery, but when they went policemen stopped them brutally. But president Johnson made a new right to vote, which were free of discrimination.
8. Martin Luther King's death
On April, 3rd, 1968 Martin Luther King held his last speech, "I see the promised land", in Memphis, Tennessee. It seemed as if he knew sure that he would die soon. On the next day he went on the balcony of his motel room. Suddenly there was a loud boom and Martin fell on the floor. Somebody had shot into his neck. He were immediately brought to hospital, but there he died one hour later.
After his dead there were many riots all over the country.
Many people were sad because of his dead. He was the one who had been the hope for better days for many blacks. His life was short, but it changed the life of million people.