Martin Luther King demonstrated to people that minorities could not be separate but equal. American's were falling short of our ideal; one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all. Some well intentioned people had recognized after the Civil War that a lot of whites were not willing to accept blacks as their equal in society. So rather than force the issue they created the separate but equal law. First put in place in 1890 with a law in Louisiana. Then in 1892 a Supreme Court decision, Plessy v. Ferguson established the phrase “separate but equal” for the nation. The ruling said railway companies carrying passengers in their coaches had to provide "separate but equal coaches" for whites and blacks. That quickly became the standard for the country in everything. Restrooms, schools, gas stations. It was 2 society’s sharing the land but little else.
Looking back it’s easy to see that if one society is given a 200 year head start and oppresses the other for their first 100 years or so of their existence that by setting the oppressed free, doesn't make them equal. The formerly oppressed party will be inferior in everything. Teachers, engineers, doctors, everything it takes to build a society would not have been trained at the same level as the dominant party’s. That will not change until the party that was the oppressor gives the formerly oppressed party access to the same training. Then it will take generations of this access to even the field. There will be a few individuals that don't need the training. George Washington Carver was born a slave and had a miserable childhood of being kidnapped, and losing all 10 of his brothers and sisters at early ages. How did he grow up to become one of the greatest inventors in our nation’s history? Hiram Revels became a senator in Mississippi in 1870. How? Maggie Walker was the first woman, never mind being black, the first woman ever to become a bank president and also started a newspaper. These people had little training but were genetically gifted well beyond most people. You can’t look at them and assume that one party has their scholars and the other has theirs so it’s equal. Society is built on the advancement of the previous generations accomplishments. Not individuals accomplishments. If one party’s generation was, by law not allowed to read and could be killed for any infraction of the other party’s rules, their descendants will never catch up, till the dominant party gives the others access to their training for decades.So in 1954 the Supreme Court recognized that and outlawed segregation. Black parents celebrated that their kids would begin having access to the same education as whites.
But to go to school where the white kids and teachers were you would have to live in those neighborhoods which until recently was against the law, and the vast majority of blacks would never be able to afford anyways. So then we created forced busing. Parents hated the idea of their kids being pulled out of the school they were doing well in to be shipped across town, and students hated it too!
Martin Luther King understood that trying legislate or force equality, only brings bitterness. If change was going to come, it would only really come if whites saw separate but equal wasn't what God wanted. Lincoln had outlawed slavery but 100 years later the decedents of slaves still didn't have access to the American dream. Lincoln feared that would be the case too. "Every advocate of slavery naturally desires to see blasted, and crushed, the liberty promised the black man by the new constitution". MLK picked up where Lincoln left off. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” As blacks in the south began to rally around his message, Martin became a national figure. With electronic media, his voice was able to bring his message to the rest of the country. He knew whites would be listening as well and he had messages for them too. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” He also said “There can be no justice without peace and there can be no peace without justice.” Some interpreted that as a threat. Others misinterpreted it, and shortened it to “No justice no peace”. But it’s really a reminder that if you see people being oppressed and you don’t help to stop it, well there’s a chance the oppressors could do the same to you. For people who gave themselves the easy intellectual out that ‘these are our laws’, he reminded them of their recent history. “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal in Germany”. He challenged everyone to be their best. “There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.” And it doesn't matter what role you play in society, you’re called to play your role as best you can. “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” The nation responded to that.
Martin Luther King Jr was born Michael King Jr. His dad changed his sons name and his own in 1934 after a trip to Germany where he learned all about the theologian Martin Luther. In the 1500’s Martin Luther started what is called the reformation, but at the time was called a revolution against the Catholic church. The Catholics were the dominant party of Europe and had set certain laws and rules that Martin Luther saw as flawed and oppressive. He wrote extensively about this and developed a following. This led him to be considered dangerous by the dominant party. He was declared an outlaw by the Emperor and anyone found guilty of associating or helping him would be imprisoned. As for Martin Luther himself a bounty was put on his head. Martin Luther King Sr admired Martin Luther for helping to set people free as he saw it. He hoped he and his son Martin Luther King Jr could do the same. It’s clear now that they did. Blacks (and all minorities) now live and work with whites like never before. They are able to contribute to society like never before And all American's are better for it.