Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a dynamic theology student and pastor who entered the battle for civil rights somewhat reluctantly, thrust into the fray during the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. But the young Dr. King’s moral courage, deep understanding and rhetorical abilities made his local and national leadership inevitable. In the face of white supremacist violence, King’s espousal non-violence struck many Black activists as dangerously naïve, King’s most notable critic being Malcolm X. But at the very least, King’s philosophies made his moral authority unquestionable, and irresistible to a generation of young whites who wanted to help the cause.
King’s “I Have A Dream” speech to the assembled protesters at the 1963 March on Washington galvanized a national movement, and his direct negotiations with President Lyndon Baines Johnson led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965, enfranchising millions of Black voters.