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Martin Luther King A Prominent Leader History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American clergyman, activist and prominent leader in the African-American civil rights movement. His main legacy was to secure progress on civil rights in the United States, and he has become a human rights icon: King is recognized as a martyr by two Christian churches. A Baptist minister, King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, serving as its first president. King’s efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. There, he raised public consciousness of the civil rights movement and established himself as one of the greatest orators in U.S. history.

In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and racial discrimination through civil disobedience and other non-violent means. By the time of his death in 1968, he had refocused his efforts on ending poverty and opposing the Vietnam War, both from a religious perspective. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and Congressional Gold Medal in 2004; Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established as a U.S. national holiday in 1986.

Background Information:

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on Jan. 15, 1929. He was the son and the grandson of a pastor, so it is perhaps no surprise that he became a pastor as well. He also became a leader of the civil rights movements and one of the most famous people America has ever produced.

His name at birth was Michael, but he later changed it to Martin. When he was born, his grandfather was pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. When Martin was 2, his father took over the pulpit and served for a great many years.

Young Martin grew up in the segregated South. He attended, David T. Howard Elementary School and Atlanta University Laboratory School, which were full of African-American students, who at that time were not able to attend school with white children. Martin graduated from Booker T. Washington High School when he was just 15 and went right to college. Following in his grandfather’s and father’s footsteps, he attended Atlanta’s important Morehouse College, graduating in 1948 with a degree in sociology. He then moved north to Pennsylvania to study religion at the Crozer Theological Seminary. (During his stay at the seminary, he studied the teachings of Indian spiritual leader Mohandas Gandhi, who cautioned against violence as a way to bring about social change.) The seminary classes included students of varying colors of skin, and Martin was elected president of his senior class, a class that had mostly white students in it. He received his seminary degree in 1951 and then moved on to Boston University, from which he graduated in 1955 with a doctorate degree.

It was in Boston that Martin met his future wife, Coretta Scott, a strong and powerful woman who cared deeply about civil rights. They were married soon after and eventually had four children, two sons and two daughters.

2.2 Profession Information


His mother was a school teacher who taught him how to read before he went to school. Young Martin was an excellent student in school. He attended Booker T. Washington School in Atlanta. He skipped grades in both elementary and high school. He entered Morehouse College at age 15 without formally graduating from high school. He graduated from college in 1948 with a BA in Sociology. He was then enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary, Chester, from which he graduated with Bachelor of Divinity in 1951. King then began doctoral studies in systematic theology at Boston University, and received his PH.D in 1955.


He enjoyed reading books, bicycling and playing football and baseball.

He was passionate in his crusade for justice through non-violent resistance to end racial prejudice in USA.

His main interest was to secure progress on civil rights. His interest was always to help poor black and down trodden. He was the seminal voice during the most turbulent periods in American history. He was able to turn protests into a crusade and translated the local conflicts into moral issues with worldwide concern.


He became Assistant Minister of the Ebenezer Baptist Church. After receiving his Ph. D, he became the minister of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.

In 1957, he became the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Since then till 1968, he travelled over 6 million miles and addressed 2500 times against injustice protest, action and wrote 5 books as well as a number of articles.

King Martin Luther Achievements

Noble Peace Award

Martin King Luther did not give much speeches and sermons throughout his life but in 1963, King wrote a open letter called “Letter from Birmingham Jail” having famous statement “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” when King was in city jail in Birmingham, Alabama for his involvement in Birmingham Campaign which was a non-violent revolution against racial segregation.

In October, 1964, King became the youngest to honour with the Noble Peace Award for running non-violent movement to eliminate racial discrimination from America.

Montgomery Bus Boycott

In December, 1955, Rosa Parks boarded the Montgomery public bus to home. After a while a white man boarded the same bus. Since the bus was full, bus driver asked Rosa Park to leave her seat for the white man. In respond to bus driver, Rosa Park refused to leave her seat. Aftermath of this incident took her behind the bars. Soon after, Rosa Park joined civil rights community led by Martin King Luther to fight back the racial laws set by district court. This boycott lasted for 385 days and forced the district court to terminate such Racial Segregation on all Montgomery public buses.

Southern Christian Leadership Conference

1957 was the year when King founded Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) with other civil right activitists. SCLC was based on the strategic method of non-violence inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s principles. Purpose of SCLC was to empower the black churches to fight for civil rights with the method of non-violence. Right to vote, desegregation, labour right were among the civil rights SCLC was fighting for and most of them were given green signal by the government of US. But this revolt was ended with the death of Martin King Luther.

March in Washington

In 1963, King Luther along with six other leaders organized and led the march on Washington. Demand of march was to end racial discrimination in schools, employment, wages, public transportation and sidewalks. March was built up of millions of people from different backgrounds. It was biggest event in Washington’s history. King Luther gave most electrifying and vibrant speech of America’s history “I have a Dream” during this March. Protest by March and King Luther’s speech impacted the Government of America and drew success and diminished the discrimination.

Learning from his leadership style

For a Person

Martin Luther King Jr. was a leader who led with:


By presenting a good example of himself.

Encouraged his people continuously

Inspired their creativity and Innovation

Supported them.

Awaken Direct Action by providing stimulating work.


Excellent Communicator.

Good Listener.

Vision for a great change in paradigms of society.

Martin Luther King Jr. promoted love and peace regardless of what has happened to him in his life. He set an example for a common man, that true leaders don’t allow hardships to stop them from accomplishing goals. He illustrated assertiveness by showing respect to the right of others as well as confidence in his own people. He was a very good listener too. He was of this belief that ‘listening is a way to show interest and caring’. He listened well to his people, tried to understand their problems, needs and aspirations and then took on responsibility.

Martin Luther King, Jr. excelled and succeeded from the very beginning. He was a very good communicator. His speeches such as, “I Have A Dream” expresses his perseverance and originality. His perseverance to conduct his rally’s and marches in a peaceful manner prevailed. His acceptance to take on the role as president of the Montgomery Improvement Association and organize and lead the boycott demonstrated his desire to do what was needed for his people. He founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference aimed at challenging racial segregation.  

The good leader should lead by example, of the high integrity, respect others’ rights, good listener, have excellent communication skills, innovative, proactive and decisive in his nature.

For a Project

For a project leader by considering every project is a unique endeavour Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership style is a perfect fit for circumstantial decisions. Martin Luther King Jr. also warned people not to be discouraged when risky ventures were not successful. We will err and falter as we climb the unfamiliar slopes of steep mountains,” he said, “but there is no alternative, well-trod, level path. There will be agonizing setbacks along with creative advances.” [1] 

A project involves a lot of people from diverse backgrounds and different levels in organizations. However, they all have the common goal to achieve project’s objective and complete within cost, time and quality. However, a project manager must have the ability to deal with people, encouraging, motivating and coordinating them. Martin Luther King Jr. dealt with people emphatically and with empathy and involved everyone through alliances, teamwork and diversity. The finest attribute of Martin Luther’s personality to involve people is a best learning for today’s project leaders.

“The biggest job in getting any movement off the ground is to keep together the people who form it. This task requires more than a common aim: it demands a philosophy that wins and holds the people’s allegiance; and it depends upon open channels of communication between people and their leaders.” [2] 

Martin Luther King Jr, 1959

5.3 For an Organization

“Martin’s penchant for involving others in the decision-making process revolved around the observation he made about the human nature into the basic needs of every human being. He not only felt that the people in an organization had the right to participate in the future direction but that such involvement was a kind of innate liberty that one must possess to feel equal.” [3] 

Martin Luther King Jr. knew that decisive leadership promotes the dynamic and vibrant atmosphere in an organization. Opportunity seeks out the organization, and the well-focused group-one backed by solid vision and well-thought-out goals-almost always succeeds. However, to develop a string of individual orders he consulted time to time with members of his research committee to discuss the issues, involved his people and defined the path to follow.

Today the environment of business in an organization is always changing; the role of the managers has become more sensitive. In order to know how to handle a diverse workforce, and deal with the complication of the new environment, the leaders need to develop a continuous uninterrupted string of orders involving all team members in the decisions.

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