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Mlk And The Civilian Rights/Voting Acts

1895 words - 8 pages

How important was Martin Luther King to the passing of the civil rights and voting acts 1964-65
The role of Martin Luther King Jr. in the passing of the Civil Rights/Voting Acts has been greatly disputed within the historical community. Some historians such as Anthony Badger argue that there was 'no person more important' than King, whilst others, such as Clayborne Carson believe the opposite: that even without King the civil rights movement would have 'followed a course of development similar to the one it did'. Differing from both these beliefs, there were factors more important than King in the passing of these acts, however, King was far from an inefficacious factor as Carson suggests. ...view middle of the document...

This rhetoric was important as it was often inspirational for discontented blacks. For instance, the students who participated in the Greensboro, Woolworths sit-ins (which stirred public conscious nationwide and put increasing pressure on the presidency to pass civil rights legislation) contacted King for support. The fact that participants of sit-ins contacted King shows that the role of King as an inspirational, guiding figure was certainly important to many activists.
Another of King's important contributing factors in the passing of the two laws was his role in the organisation of the Birmingham, Washington and Selma marches. King used his prestige amongst activists to guide the black movement into marching on tactically important places for attracting the most media attention, which would place the greatest amount of pressure on the government, and thus instigate legislative change. This tactical prowess can be seen during the Birmingham marches. King's strategic brilliance in this instance predicted the actions of 'Bull' Connor perfectly, and the ensuing chaos, which drew widespread media sympathy. The Birmingham marches were instrumental in persuading the Presidency into introducing civil rights legislation, Kennedy saying the events "sickened" him. It could be argued that the media itself was the more important factor, however, King's expert manipulation of the media was more significant, since without King's tactical skill in media manipulation and choice of location for the march, the movement would not have prompted public sympathy, which in turn pressured the presidency to draw up the bills.
King's Selma to Montgomery march in 1965, and the subsequent 'Bloody Sunday' that occurred was also undoubtedly a key contributing factor in the passing of the Voting Act leading historian Stephen Oates to believe that it was 'the movement's finest hour'. Whilst not entirely true, the effect that the Selma march had on President Johnson and congress was certainly profound. As a direct result of Selma, President Johnson delivered an impassioned speech to congress titled The American Promise. In it he promised a bill that would 'Allow men and women to register and vote whatever the color of their skin'. It is undoubtable then, that the role of King, especially in his organisation of Selma was important in the passing of the voting acts.
King's historic I Have a Dream speech during the march on Washington, orchestrated primarily by King, is another key factor as to why King was an important asset to the passing of the civil rights act. The speech was made to a crowd of a quarter of a million and countless more on television and drew massive attention from the American populace and (more importantly), the Presidency. In direct response to King's speech President Kennedy wrote an open letter. In it he promised to ensure a range of legislative change, most prominently "the civil rights bill". This shows clearly the importance of King in...

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