Sarah, aged 15

Martin Luther King Jr was one of the most influential men ever known. He fought ceaselessly for the rights of black people and was admired by many people, including myself.

The Jim Crow Laws forbad any black person to think or to act as if they were equal to white people. Black people weren’t allowed to attend the same schools as white people and were treated as second-class citizens. They had no rights and no respect from the white people. In all the Montgomery public buses, black people were to give up their seat to white people. In March 1955, a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl, Claudette Colvin, refused to give up her seat in the bus to a white man and was prosecuted. The Birmingham African-American community, to which King belonged, reviewed the case to potentially defend the girl. However, they considered the fact that she was pregnant and unmarried would affect the credibility of the issue and they decided to let it go and wait for a more suitable case.
On December 1 1955, a black woman called Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and was arrested. The “Montgomery Bus Boycott” soon followed, led by King. The situation became so tense that King’s house was bombed and he was arrested during this campaign. After 385 days of hard work, he finally won the campaign and racial segregation on all Montgomery public buses ended.

There are many reasons why Martin Luther King was a key figure in the fight for civil liberties and is still very much respected to this day. His ideals and the way he communicated them were inspirational and he fought tirelessly for what he believed in. His main belief was that God created black and white people equally and that no race, colour or creed would be treated unfairly.

King organized and led marches defending black people’s right to vote, desegregation, labor rights and other basic civil rights. The law of the United States would later enact most of these rights.

One of the most important marches led by King was the “March on Washington” in 1963. Many demands were made, for example, an end to racial segregation in public schools or a $2 minimum wage for all workers. Even though the demands were high, the march was a resounding success. Here, Marin Luther King made “one of the finest speeches in the history of American oratory”. This speech, also known as “I have a Dream” electrified the crowd and gave them hope.

Martin Luther King also strongly opposed the U.S.’s role in the Vietnam War. He said they were there “to occupy it as an American colony” and called the U.S. government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today”. This showed that he would even be disloyal to his country than tolerate any injustice, wherever it was.

King was most remembered for advancing the cause of the civil rights and bringing it to the attention of the international community. He enabled many people to reach their potential and is remembered as a ceaseless advocate for human rights and the downtrodden.

He influenced many people to follow suit. For example, Albert Lutuli, a South African leader fought for racial justice and peace in his country.

When asked what people should remember him for, instead of wanting to talk about the awards for peace that he had won, he wanted people to talk about how he fought peacefully for justice.

He said “I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. And I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.” and “Say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness.”

Martin Luther King received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1965 as well as many other awards.

Martin Luther King embodies action for peace because without his hard work and effort, many people around the world may not be enjoying the freedom and liberty they have today. He embodies action for peace because he enacted civil rights for black people and went a long way towards restoring peace between the black and white communities. He never gave up fighting for peace and justice and many people looked up to him, as they still do, and many people followed in his footsteps.

About UN News Geneva

Sharing entires to the United Nations Peace Essay competitions run by the Information Service in Geneva in 2011
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