Martin Luther King Jr.

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What challenges did Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. face?

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Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950's and 60's worked for desegregation, voting rights protection for African Americans, and an end to systemic racism all across America, but specifically in the South and in the major cities of the North. They faced an entrenched culture of racism and a widespread set of laws and ordinances that enforced segregation, discrimination, and voter disenfranchisement. They faced police departments and local governments that were often in collusion with the Ku Klux Klan and White Citizens' Councils, or would look the other way when racists would intimidate and beat activists. This was typified by the police department of Birmingham, Alabama, headed by Public Safety Commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connor, who notoriously turned German shepherds and water cannons on children and students who were marching peacefully for desegregation.Most seriously, Dr. King and his supporters faced the threat of serious injury and death. The KKK bombed many homes and churches during that time period, including Dr. King's. He personally received death threats by telephone and by letter. And in 1968, he died by assassination at the age of 39.To face these monumental challenges, Dr. King openly relied on his faith as a Christian, especially when the threats and intimidation got him down. He talked about a particular moment during the Montgomery Bus Boycott when he was despondent because of the hate being directed at him and his family, in a speech called "Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool," which you can hear here: His struggle wasn't in vain. He raised the issues of the Black community to national consciousness, helped win the Civil Rights Acts of 1964/1968 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and his speeches, sermons, and writings continue to inspire people all over the world to fight for the right thing regardless of the odds.

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