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Leaders for Social and Political Change

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Leaders for social and political change
Michelle Clark
WGU
Themes in U.S. and World History
GKE

August 1, 2013

Leaders for social and political change
Over the course of history, there have been many battle stories, both political and social of how nations have become what we know today. Among these stories are those of social injustices, hatred, and racism, as well as personal and political struggles. From the many injustices our predecessors have overcome, leaders have emerged. Individuals who will forever be revered by millions and will hopefully continue to inspire our youth. Nelson Mandela and Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. are two leaders that have greatly impacted not only their country, but the world. Both of these leaders had a significant impact on the people of their cause, both in a political aspect as well as for social change.
In 1948, The White Nationalist Party empowered South Africa, instituting apartheid in an attempt to ensure white domination, control over the economy and its social systems. There were three racial categories for South Africa; Whites, Colored (mostly Indians or Asians, or multiracial), and Blacks (African decent). Non-white people were impoverished, humiliated, and oppressed. Black people were required to live in rural areas and carry a passbook containing their fingerprints, photo and information on access to non-black areas. If they were caught without a passbook, severe penalties ensued. On March 21, 1960, a group marched into Sharpeville in a peaceful protest against carrying these “passbooks”. The result was 67 people dead and 180 wounded at the hands of the law enforcement. This event is known as the Sharpeville Massacre, and is only one example of the brutality that blacks incurred during the time of the apartheid. Nelson Mandela was at the forefront of the fight for equality in South Africa (Nathan, Ditchek, & Niss, 1995-2013). The most important political change that was the direct result of Nelson Mandela’s actions was the end of apartheid in South Africa. He began his cause as a leader of the African National Congress that took a non-violent approach to the fight for human rights, but shortly after the Sharpeville Massacre, Mandela formed the Umkhonto, which advocated the use of violence. He raised money abroad for the organization and made arrangements for paramilitary training and anti-apartheid war. Nelson Mandela was arrested and charged with treason, sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government. As result, he spent 27 years in prison on Robin Island, off the coast of Cape Town. Several offers were made to free Mandela if he would renounce violence against the government, but Mandela refused. In Mandela’s own words, "What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people remains banned? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts”. (Alexander, n.d.) On February 2, 1990, under the authority of President F.W. de Klerk, the ANC as well as other anti-apartheid organizations were legal again. Nelson Mandela was released from prison on February 11, 1990. With his dedication and through his example while imprisoned, Mandela was able to bring about political and social change. His determination and unwillingness to accept his own freedom until apartheid was abolished was instrumental in ending apartheid and the beginning of civil rights. In 1993, Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1994 he was elected president of South Africa, and voting was made legal for black people. It was through the end of apartheid that social change was able to occur. The most important social change that followed the end of apartheid was civil rights. Black South African’s were able to move about the country without the dreaded passbook. Segregation was not as prominent, as they were able to enjoy common areas, such as parks and stores. The promise of hope that Nelson Mandela instilled in his people was finally a reality. He is a role model that never gave up his dream and persevered through the most difficult of trials.
Like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. also had a vision of racial equality. He was a Baptist minister that led the non-violent American Civil Rights Movement from December 1955, until April 4, 1968. At the time of the civil rights movement segregation was prevalent in the southern United States. Blacks and whites were valued differently and considered a different class from one another. They did not share the same rights, and black Americans were treated unfairly. The most significant political change that occurred as a result of the actions of Dr. Martin Luther king Jr. was the legislature that passed the American Civil Rights Act in 1965. It was through this act that racial discrimination was eliminated, and made illegal. Finally black American people were afforded the same rights as white Americans. The right to education, public transportation and non-discrimination in the workplace was a reality, all because Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would not give up, and persevered until the American Civil Rights Act was passed. This legislature allowed for the most significant social change of all, the end of segregation, which is directly the result of the actions of Martin Luther King Jr. In Dr. King’s own words, “The American racial revolution has been a revolution to “get in” rather than to overthrow. We want to share in the American economy, the housing market, the educational system and the social opportunities” (King Jr., 1966, p. 3). His dream is a reality now, America is a land where freedom for all reigns.

References
Alexander, M. (n.d.). Nelson Mandela: A Timeline. Retrieved from www.southafrica.info/mandela/timeline.htm
King Jr., M. L. (1966). Nonviolence: The Only Road to Freedom. Retrieved from teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/nonviolence-the-only-road-to -freedom/
Nathan, S. B., Ditchek, J., & Niss, C. K. (1995-2013). Viewers’ and Teachers’ Guide, The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela, Frontline, PBS. Retrieved from www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/Mandela/teach/…...

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