Segregation and the Civil Rights Movement Questions and Answers

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What challenges did Martin Luther King, Jr. face and/or overcome?

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Martin Luther King, Jr. was a leader of the Civil Rights movement who faced enormous challenges in his lifetime. His first major protest was the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott of 1955-1956, when he, along with Rosa Parks, protested conditions that African-Americans faced on buses in that city. Under the laws of Jim Crow, African-Americans were forced to move to the back of the bus in Montgomery and other southern cities when whites boarded, and African-American riders were often treated unfairly and rudely. From the outset, Dr. King faced hostility from segregationists, and his life was threatened repeatedly. For example, during the bus boycott, his house was bombed, and he was arrested during a campaign to desegregate the city of Birmingham, Alabama (he was jailed several times during his lifetime).

Dr. King also faced life-long depression and the tension of uniting African-Americans and sympathetic whites into a movement that would achieve his goals. He advocated a policy of non-violence, inspired by ideas of Gandhi and others, and started the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). In the 1960s, several civil rights groups developed, such as SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee). Leaders of SNCC thought that Dr. King was not connected with their concerns as younger members of the Civil Rights movement. Later leaders, such as Malcolm X, a Muslim, often believed in more direct and violent confrontations to achieve their aims than Dr. King did (though Malcolm X became more convinced of the power of non-violence before he died). 

Another of Dr. King's challenges was to convince the federal government to become involved in...

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