In his memoir, Stride toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, Martin Luther King Jr. provides a fascinating profile into the dynamics between racial relations and American democracy in the Modern Civil Rights Movement Era that spanned from the 1950s to 1960s. Through the characterization, setting, and point of view, Dr. King demonstrates the fundamental goodness of humankind and the potential of American democracy.
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Dr. King narrates events and insights in a first person’s point of view which allows the reader firsthand glimpse into the circumstances surrounding the “Montgomery bus boycott.” Dr. King explains, “I abhorred segregation.” While addressing the “intellectual pilgrimage to nonviolence” question, Dr. Kings explains “had come precariously close to resenting all white people.” Besides, after becoming conscious of economic justice, he expressed disapproval of the capitalist oppression of not only black people but also that of the poor white people. In the context, African Americans hating white Americans would have been justifiable, but he chose not to. It was one of the many instances when Dr. King would lean on his core belief about the nature of humanity.
Moreover, the movement, led by Dr. King, inspired by Jesus’ love ethic and Mahatma Gandhi’s principles was non-violent. Nonviolence philosophy advocates for, not passive but, active nonviolent resistance. At its core is the desire, not to defeat or shame, but to extend kinship and understanding. Also endorsed by nonviolence philosophy, is resistance to social evils, not its propagators. Also, it is not retaliatory. It accepts suffering but never retaliates. It avoids not only external physical violence but also internal spiritual violence.
Fuelling this philosophy is the kind of love that seeks the universal well-being of others above all else while trying to preserve and create community. Understanding and redemptive goodwill, not emotion or sentiment, is its essence. “The best way to assure oneself that the love is unmotivated, ungrounded is to possess the love for the enemy, from whom you expect no good but only hostility and persecution.”
Lastly, its foundation is the conviction that the universe sides with justice. Consequently, nonviolence followers attain profound faith in the future. In the struggle for justice, nonviolent resistors have cosmic companionship. Dr. King often attributed this tool of social justice as one of the most significant factors that influenced his life. From it, came his profound faith in the essential goodness in man and consequently in extension the potential of American democracy engineered by men.
Throughout the texts, there are many instances, including random acts of kindness, the when people’s intrinsically nature shined. Numerous people volunteered Automobiles to transport those who couldn’t walk such as the elderly. Drivers also volunteered. Monetary contributions came from everywhere across the globe, reaching as far as Tokyo. Churches across America, including white churches donated to the course. Encouraging letters lauding the magnitude of the “50,000 Negroes” efforts were received. Singapore sent words of support. A radio message from a ship at sea was received.
In one case, a driver stopped beside a senior woman who was trudging along with apparent difficulty. Refusing, the ride she retorted “I’m not walking for myself,” she explained “I’m walking for my children and my grandchildren.”
In Stride towards Freedom, Dr. King highlights white Americans joined the cause “At least three white men from the air bases drove in the pool during their off-duty hours.” In white America, whites, not affected by the segregation, had little to gain from aiding the boycott efforts. In fact, they risked social alienation or retaliation from others.
In, Dr. King’s belief in the potential of American democracy is evident when MIA filed a suit with the United States Federal District Court. The court was asked for an end to segregation in buses and the halting of civil rights’ violation by city commissioners on Negroes motorist and pedestrians. On June 4, 1956, on a two to one vote, it was declared that the city bus segregation laws of Alabama were, in fact, unconstitutional. In spite of this decision being appealed after, the case affirmed that American democracy was as still potent as ever. Eventually, after appeals and counter-appeals, the Supreme Court declared segregation in buses unconstitutional.
Summarily, Stride towards Freedom can be defined as literary evidence of King’s firm belief in the innate cooperative nature of humans. It tells the stories of people characterized by this goodness and shares the fundamental principles guiding this belief. Also shared, are experiences that affirmed this belief. In the end, the reader also gets to interact with his faith in the potential of American Democracy. Martin Luther King believed in humankind’s intrinsic goodness and fueled by it, he helped improve the lives of many and changed the American course of history.
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