The Civil Rights Movement: An Extension Of Progressivism 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was a beloved figure of freedom and a controversial figure during the rise of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950’s and 60’s. Claybourne Carson, editor of ‘The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr’ had accumulated hundreds of documents, and audio recordings to create this autobiography that allows the reader to get into the deepest insight of King’s thoughts and the role he portrayed to help America overcome the racial bigotry. The Civil Rights Movement was an organized effort by African Americans to bring the end of racial discrimination and injustice, in the hope of gaining equal rights under the law. A multitude of African and White Americans had believed that in order to overcome this racial bigotry as a whole, everybody needs to be treated equal, no matter the skin color or gender.

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King had gotten involved with the movement in 1955, when Rosa Parks, another civil rights activist, had refused to give up her seat to a white man in the segregated South. She was immediately arrested right after the incident, which triggered an uproar in the African American community. After hearing the news, King had a conversation with former Vice President Richard Nixon about the incident, and what should be done. In the text, King had stated “I agreed that some protests were necessary and that the boycott method would be an effective one” (King, 51). In response to the incident, two boycotts were hosted after the arrest of Rosa Parks. The first bus boycott started in Montgomery, Alabama and was successful. The second boycott was staged in Birmingham, Alabama and it was successful, but it ended with the arrest of King and a handful of other contributors.

For the majority of his life, King had endured racism and discrimination. He had taken notice of his oppressors using violence and aggression as a means to control and degrade his people. This had led King to believe that in order to make a difference, violence would not be the answer. He knew that he would have to stand his ground peacefully and remain nonviolent. This is why King was best known for using nonviolent civil disobedience to send a message. This message can be seen when King and multitude of other civil activists marched from Montgomery to Selma to demonstrate the desire to exercise their constitutional right to vote. It wasn’t until the civil rights marchers had reached the entrance of Selma, which was Edmund Pettus Bridge, when things turned violent. State troopers had formed a blockade around the bridge in response to the march, preventing the civil rights marchers from going any further. The activists were forcibly told to turn back, but refused to do so. In response to the disobedience, state troopers had armed themselves with gas masks and used tear gas and their batons to deter the activists away from Selma. What was supposed to be a deterrent, turned into a violent bloodshed. State troopers used brutal force against the civil rights marchers, beating them with their batons until they were down on the concrete, unconscious from the wounds that they had received.

What was supposed to be a peaceful protest escalated into a sight of horror that no one was expecting. Right before the incident King had stated, “I remember that we had one of the most magnificent expressions of the ecumencial movement that I’ve ever seen” (King, 287). The cacophony of violence was photographed and recorded by journalists that worked for CBS, ABC and other local media companies that projected the mass violence and racial tension across the country. The nations response to the incident sparked an outcry for reform and justice for the victims of the attack. It was during this time when King had concluded that the Civil Rights Movement was an extension of progressivism because of the nations response to the incident, which sparked advocacy for reform. It was this advocacy that led King believe that the movement was a way to improve the country with positive change.

Progressivism is the ideology of advocacy for social reform. It is based on the idea of progression and advancement in science, technology, economic development and social organization. Progressives believe that this advancement and progression is vital to improve the human condition. King was correct when he had believed that the Civil Rights Movement was an extension of progressivism because of the way he and other activists had performed peaceful acts of civil disobedience to make a long lasting positive change. The impression that King left the world before he was assassinated, was to fight by peacefully but affirmatively taking initiative to improve the human condition.

07 September 2020

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