Friday, January 7, 2011

Martin Luther King, Part Two from VOA

PEOPLE IN AMERICA, a program in Special English on the Voice of America.


Today, Shep O'Neal and Warren Scheer finish the story of the life of civil right's leader Martin Luther King, Junior.


Martin Luther King was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in nineteen twenty-nine. He began his university studies when he was fifteen years old, and received a doctorate degree in religion. He became a preacher at a church in Montgomery, Alabama.

In nineteen fifty-five, a black woman (Rosa Parks) in Montgomery was arrested for sitting in the white part of a city bus. Doctor King became the leader of a protest against the city bus system. It was the first time that black southerners had united against the laws of racial separation.

At first, the white citizens of Montgomery did not believe that the protest would work. They thought most blacks would be afraid to fight against racial separation. But the buses remained empty.

Some whites used tricks to try to end the protest.

They spread false stories about Martin Luther King and other protest leaders. One story accused Martin of stealing money from the civil rights movement. Another story charged that protest leaders rode in cars while other protesters had to walk. But the tricks did not work, and the protest continued.

Doctor King's wife Coretta described how she and her husband felt during the protest. She said: "We never knew what was going to happen next. We felt like actors in a play whose ending we did not know. Yet we felt a part of history. And we believed we were instruments of the will of God".

The white citizens blamed Doctor King for starting the protest. They thought it would end if he was in prison or dead. Doctor King was arrested twice on false charges. His arrests made national news and he was released. But the threats against his life continued.

The Montgomery bus boycott lasted three hundred eighty-two days. Finally, the United States Supreme Court ruled that racial separation was illegal in the Montgomery bus system. Martin Luther King and his followers had won their struggle. The many months of meetings and protest marches had made victory possible.

They also gave blacks a new feeling of pride and unity. They saw that peaceful protest, Mahatma Gandhi's idea of non-violence, could be used as a tool to win their legal rights.

Life did not return to normal for Doctor King after the protest was over. He had become well known all over the country and throughout the world. He often was asked to speak about his ideas on non-violence. Both black and white Americans soon began to follow his teachings. Groups were formed throughout the south to protest peacefully against racial separation.

The civil rights movement spread so fast that a group of black churchmen formed an organization to guide it. The organization was called the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Martin Luther King became its president.

In his job, Doctor King helped organize many protests in the southern part of the United States. Blacks demanded to be served in areas where only whites were permitted to eat. And they rode in trains and buses formerly for whites only. These protests became known as "freedom rides. " Many of the freedom rides turned violent. Black activists were beaten and arrested. Some were even killed.

In nineteen sixty-three, the black citizens of Birmingham refused to buy goods from the stores in the city. They demanded more jobs for blacks. And they demanded to send their children to white schools. The white citizens were angry and afraid, but they refused to meet the blacks' demands. The situation became tense. Many protestors were beaten and arrested. Even Doctor King was arrested. But he was not in prison for long.

The Birmingham demonstrations made international news. Whites soon saw that it was easier to meet the demands of the protestors than to fight them. Martin Luther King and his followers had won an important victory in Birmingham. It marked a turning point for the civil rights movement.

Martin Luther King recognized the importance of Birmingham. It did not mean that racial separation had ended. Some still remains today. But he felt that the battle was almost won. And he wanted to call on the nation for its support. So doctor king organized a March on Washington, D. C.

The March on Washington took place in August, nineteen sixty-three. About two hundred fifty thousand persons gathered there. They came to demand more jobs and freedom for black Americans. There were to be many other marches in Washington during the nineteen sixties and early seventies. But this was the biggest up to that time.

It was in Washington that Martin Luther King gave one of his most famous speeches. The speech is known as the "I Have a Dream Speech. " It expressed his ideas for the future. Doctor king said:

"So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Martin Luther King received the Nobel Peace Prize in nineteen sixty-four. But he did not live to see the final results of his life's work. He was shot to death in Memphis, Tennessee, in nineteen sixty-eight.

Doctor King always felt he would die a violent death. His life had been threatened wherever he went. And he often spoke to his wife about his fears. But he never believed that his life was more important than the civil rights movement. The night before he died he spoke to his supporters. He said:

"We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. Like anybody, I would like to live. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

(MUSIC: "We Shall Overcome")


You have been listening to the story of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Junior. This Special English program was written by William Rodgers. Your narrators were Shep O'Neal and Warren Scheer. I'm Doug Johnson. Listen again next week at this time for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.

The Entire "I have a dream" Speech.

The Entire "I've been to the mountaintop." Speech.

The story of Martin Luther King Jr., Part One.

1. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was the beginning of the ________________ .
a. Civil Rights Movement
b. Freedom Ride
c. Birmingham Marches
d. March on Washington

2. Before Martin Luther King Jr. started the Civil Rights protests, he was _________ .
a. a student at Morehouse University
b. a PhD candidate in Boston
c. a successful preacher
d. the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

3. The famous speech Martin Luther King Jr. gave in Washington was called _____________ .
a. "I've been to the mountaintop"
b. "We shall overcome"
c. "I've seen the promised land"
d. "I have a dream"

4. After the Montgomery bus lasted _____________ , the Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation was illegal in the Montgomery Bus System.
a. two weeks
b. more than one year
c. less than one year
d. six months

5. Martin Luther King Jr. realized that his death would probably be ____________ .
a. violent
b. non-violent
c. from a disease
d. after a long life

6. The greatest inspiration for King's style of protest came from the example and writings of ______________ .
a. Frederick Douglass
b. Walt Whitman
c. Mahatma Gandhi
d. Franklin Roosevelt

7. In nineteen-sixty four, Martin Luther King Jr. received the ___________ Prize.
a. Pulitzer
b. Nobel Peace
c. Metal of Honor
d. The Purple Heart

8. At a very early age, King demonstrated a remarkable gift for _____________ .
a. giving speeches
b. leading protest marches
c. changing the laws
d. solving difficult problems

9. Another name for this selection could be _________________ .
a. "The Civil Rights Movement"
b. "The March on Washington"
c. "The Death of a Great Leader"
d. "The Life and Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr."

10. This article is mainly about ______________ .
a. the violence in American society
b. the work of Martin Luther King Jr.
c. the struggles of black people for justice
d. the continuing battle with racism

Martin Luther King Jr: "I have a dream"


  1. I learned to remember which the fighters for the movements social is a legacy which never we should forget, because is necessary do a lot more for the rights social

  2. John, the students liked this biography and the other stories. Will you respond to their comments? Do their emails go to you when they comment? Thanks for your hard work!

  3. Comments are welcome of course. I will respond to any comments made. If students want to write to me directly, they can use my email and I will answer them.