Gandhi and King: The Power of Nonviolent Resistance

By Michael J. Nojeim | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
From "Mike" to the
"Moral Leader of Our Nation"

Being a Negro in America means trying to smile when you
want to cry. It means trying to hold on to physical life
amid psychological death. It means the pain of watching
your children grow up with clouds of inferiority in their
mental skies. It means having your legs cut off, and then
being condemned for being a cripple. It means seeing
your mother and father spiritually murdered by the
slings and arrows of daily exploitation, and then being
hated for being an orphan.

—Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go
from Here: Chaos or Community?
1967

This chapter traces Martin Luther King, Jr.'s personal background: his childhood and early adult influences and the experiences he had that helped mold him into the man he became. King was exposed to dramatic events that left indelible marks on his personality. King had his share of peak experiences, but most of them flowed from the same currents of segregation that oppressed blacks throughout the South. In the segregated South, blacks were oppressed as a matter of law and too frequently through the use of violence, such as beatings and lynchings. This hostile environment subjected blacks to immense pressures in their day-to-day lives. It placed insurmountable obstacles in the path of promising young black talent, denied blacks opportunities and robbed them of their futures. To be black in the segregated South was to live a life walled in by hostility and

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