A Look at Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks

Two historical figures that I think are very important are Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. These historical figures have many things in common, but they also have their differences. One main thing they had in common was that they were both brave enough to take some actions to change the way of living for the better. Their main goal was to stop the horrible segregation that was occuring in the mid 1900’s. Their brave actions were successful and they had a huge impact on the U.S. They had different ways of taking their actions but either way they were a big help to the many other African Americans that experienced segregation of public facilities at that time.

Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. Rosa Parks, who’s birth name is Rosa Louise McCauley, was born on February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama. They were both raised a little different. King had the advantage of being raised by both his mother and father, while Parks parents seperated when she was young. They also recieved very different educations. King recieved a solid education and even attended College. Parks didn’t have the chance to even finish High School. She had to drop out as a Junior in High School because since her mother and her were living with her grandparents, Parks had to leave school to attend to her sick grandmother. After that she never returned and instead got a job at a shirt factory in Montgomery. She soon married a barber named Raymond Parks who was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). With his support, Parks finished her high school degree in 1933 and became one of the leaders of the NAACP.

Both historical figures had the goal of ending segregation but they had different motivations. Rosa Parks motivation was that she was tired of having to give up her seat to white passengers in public buses. At that time the city code required that all public transportation be segregated and that bus drivers had the power of a police officer to carry out the provisions of the code. African Americans had to sit at the back of the bus while whites sat in the front. If the bus got too crowded, African Americans had to give up their seat for any standing white people. Rosa Parks wanted to put a stop to this and on December 1, 1955, she did. On that day she had a long day of work at the Montgomery Fair department store. She boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus for home. The bus had became crowded so the bus driver ordered her to get up and give her seat to a white person. Rosa parks refused to so she was arrested and found guilty at trial. After learning about her arrest, other members of the NAACP began to organize a boycott of Montgomery’s city buses. All African Americans stood off the buses and instead found other ways of transportation. This boycott was a success and it crippled the transit company’s finances. The city of Montgomery now had no choice but to lift the law requiring segregation on public buses. These legal actions with the help of the African American community made the 382-day Montgomery Bus Boycott one of the largest and most successful movements against racial segregation in history.

Martin Luther King Jr’s motivation was his summer experience in the North before he started college. He was shocked by how peacefully the races mixed in the North. This experience deepened his growing hatred of racial segregation. After marrying Coretta Scott in 1953, King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. When the Montgomery Bus Boycott started, after Rosa Parks arrest, King was elected the leader. He was well-trained and since he was new in town, he didn’t have any enemies and was well respected. Although his home was desroyed and his family’s safety was threatened, he continued to lead the boycott and one year and a few weeks later, the city’s buses were desegregated. He didn’t stop there, he then organized the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). King lectured in all parts of the country and discussed race-related issues with civil-rights. His most famous was the ” I Have A Dream ” speech. In late October he was arrested with 33 young people protesting segregation at the lunch counter in an Atlanta department store. King was released only with the help of a Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy. As King had hoped, all these actions together had a strong effect on national opinion and resulted in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act authorized the federal government to enforce desegregation of public accommodations and outlawing discrimination in publicly owned facilities and in employment.

Aside from these differences, these two historical figures have many similarities. They were both raised during the time of racial segregation. They experienced so much hatred from these racist white people. This encouraged both of them to stand up and demand their rights as citizens. They were both important members of the NAACP and they actually worked together too. They did all they needed to do to get their freedom. Their actions placed both of them in jail but once they were out they continued to work even harder for their freedom. They were both big parts in the ending of segregation. Even after their death , they were both known as very respected and loved individuals.