The story begins as it does; with a dream. A large and seated sculpture of Abraham Lincoln bears the inscription of two well-known speeches made by himself during his own tenure. Given time, it is that same locale that will become the site of Martin Luther King Jr’s iconic and immortal speech of 1963. It was during that rally that a marginalised people cried out for freedom and the fruits that would emanate from it.

Mr. King Jr was an American baptist minister. He was one of the most prominent leaders in the civil rights movement till his assassination in 1968. He advanced civil rights for people of colour in the United States through ahimsa the nonviolent activism of Gandhi as well as civil disobedience. Propelled forward by his own Christian beliefs, he led the movement to target resistance against systematic discrimination.

During King’s adolescent years, he harboured resentment against the whites due to the racial humiliation that he and his family endured in the segregated South. In high school, King became known for his oratory abilities. He possessed a voice that had grown into an orotund baritone. King was drawn to history and English and chose English and sociology to be his main subjects while he was at the school. He later proceeded to join the school’s debate team.

In 1944, in his junior year, King gave his first public speech during an oratorical contest. In his speech he stated, “black America still wears chains. The finest negro is at the mercy of the meanest white man. Even winners of our highest honours face the class colour bar.” King would emerge as the winner of the contest.

On the ride home by bus, he and his teacher were ordered by the driver to stand so that white passengers could sit down. The driver of the bus even hurled racist abuse at King. Although King initially refused, he complied after his teacher told him that he would be breaking the law if he did not follow the directions of the driver.

As all the seats were occupied, he and his teacher were forced to stand on the rest of the drive back to Atlanta. Later King wrote of the incident, saying, “That night will never leave my memory. It was the angriest I have ever been in my life.”

Marylandstater, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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