Religion played a substantial role in challenging the status quo for Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar E. Chavez. This essay portrays how these figures were leading the moment for equality in the Civil Rights and the Farm Labor Movements. I allege that King’s letter was more emphatic because his piece was more silver-tongued, strong willed, and best of all very honest and straight forward.
Cesar E. Chavez was a Mexican-American labor activist that founded the United Farm Workers labor union (UFW), to help protect the rights of migrant workers. He enticed national attention to the cause by coordinating nonviolent protests such as hunger strikes. Chavez attempted to make people aware of the farmers’ struggles for better pay and safer working conditions through nonviolent tactics such as boycotts, pickets, and strikes. He directs the audience to engage the poor directly. Chavez also states that “often the money is spent for food baskets for the needy instead of for effective action to eradicate the causes of poverty.”
Martin Luther King Jr., was an American Baptists Minister and social activist. He played a major role in the civil rights movement. King sought racial equality for African Americans through tranquil, non-violent protests. While incarcerated in Birmingham, he wrote a letter in response to criticism of eight clergy men. Although it is addressed to the clergymen, it is subliminally directed to the attention of white men as a statement of universal justice for all men. According to King, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” By that, I feel, he depicts that all the indirect injustices forced upon African Americans have a direct impact on all men of all races everywhere.
Chavez expressed that the religious community had a moralistic obligation to help the migrant community. “Since the Church is to be servant to the poor, it is our fault if that wealth is not channeled to help the poor in our world.” He states in his speech that the church is a very wealthy and powerful institution and therefore should be used to eradicate poverty. They weren’t even allowed to use the Catholic church at their disposal for meetings. The Protestants on the other hand, were quick to join in and offer a helping hand and ask for nothing in return. Chavez states that “they had developed a very clear conception of the Church. It was called to serve, to be at the mercy of the poor, and not to try to use them.”
King was a highly religious preacher that produced powerful, moving sermons. He states in his letter being labeled as an extremist and rather than taking it offensively he uses it in a positive light by saying “But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.'” With that King turns the tables on his adversaries and made them look like fools. He also makes a reference to Paul. He says, “Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town.” With that I feel he is letting them know that he is just as holy as they are not.
King and Chavez alike formed a part of the minority that struggled with injustice and inequality. Although they stemmed from different backgrounds, they did have a great deal of similarities as well as a few differences in their movements for justice for their people. Both King and Chavez were both admirable orators and their speeches vastly contributed to the social advancements of minorities. They both used non-violent approaches to make their demands heard such as boycotts, pickets, and hunger strikes. Both King and Chavez were greatly influenced by mahatma Gandhi. They inspired people of all racial ethnicities and genders to join in the movements on a volunteer basis. These men stood for equality and justice with the use of religion.
As previously stated, King was a Baptist minister and was quite confident publicly speaking at large gatherings. Chavez on the other hand, came from a poor migrant family and did more listening than speaking. They both fought tooth and nail for their beliefs and stood a firm ground but for different causes; King for the Civil Rights movement ang Chavez for the Labor movement. King finished high school at the age of fifteen as well as attended and graduated college. Chavez on the other hand went to many schools but only completed the 8th grade and did not attend college.
Both men were without a doubt tenacious and head-strong. Although they both set forth incredible movements for justice and equality, I deem that King was more effective in his ways. King dedicated his time and life in the non-violent struggle to fight for racial equality. The Letter from Birmingham Jail served in the Civil Rights Act which ended segregation.
Letter from Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr.
The Mexican-American and the Church, Cesar E. Chavez
Harris, Trudier. Martin Luther King Jr., Heroism, and African American Literature. University Alabama Press, 2014. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true;db=e000xna;AN=869780;site=ehost-live.Works Cited
Chavez, Cesar, et al. The Words of Ce?sar Cha?vez. vol. 1st ed, Texas A;M University Press, 2002. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true;db=e000xna;AN=71502;site=ehost-live.