Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Dr. F.W. Gregory
From events in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, a citadel of Southern segregation practices and American rascist attitudes, the Negro Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was to be pivoted to a pedestal of national prominence and of international fame. By 1958 King had become the symbol of the new black revolt locally, nationally, and internationally. Black had finally found a black leader to articulate their needs and demands to white America and for themselves. King's charismatic personality and powerful oratory drew both whites and blacks to him and to this cause. To some degree he unified the civil rights movement in the United States from 1957 to 1968. His power fluctuated within this period, and at times his strength lay only in his symbolic presence. King rose to the forefront of Negro leadership at a time when the black protest in America was changing to black revolution, and this new revolution needed a leader. Black America needed first, a symbol of the new flavor of the movement; second, a black leader who could vocalize the aspirations of all blacks, not just middle-class or intellectual blacks, and instill pride in them; third one who could bring respectability and white support to the cause, and finally, a man who could united the varied voices and activities of black leadership. Black leaders in America had always had a dual role to play; one for white America, and one for black America. White America saw the black as one to keep blacks content as second-class citizens; black America saw the black leader as one to destroy the barriers preventing blacks from fully participating in American life as first-class citizens. Martin Luther King rejected white America's traditional role for him, and he told white and black Americans the same story-
Breit, Carol, "Martin Luther King's position in the Black Power movement from 1955 to 1968" (1972). Honors Theses. 415.