A most common name that comes to mind when it comes to who is the most influential person is Martin Luther King Junior. Our lifestyle has largely been influenced by him. The society that Doctor King described in his speeches are unfathomable today, and the change in the civilization of the United States of America due to Martin’s work was practically instantaneous. The following quote is an excerpt from his most famous speech at the Alabama State Capital Building:
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. (King 1963)
Since Martin Luther King Junior was murdered on April 4, 1968, he was only able to witness his dream become reality for about three years. The revolution was still an infant. This literature will evaluate the types of influences that he used. The construction capstone class curriculum exposed several. There are ways to influence people that are not motivating, and these were revealed to the author before he made the list of Mister King’s powers. It is interesting that he did not use the powers are not truly motivating. These powers are reward, coercive, legitimate, information, and ecological power. The powers that Martin Luther King did not use will not be explained. His truly motivating powers is his notoriety of his personal power and position. Referent power comes from his integrity, and his expert power come from his intelligent exercise of his scholarship. The proceeding paragraphs will address his powers in the order given next: expert, personal, position, and referent. Expert power will be the first power addressed because it is easily separated from the other powers, and the power is least influential without it being combined with others.
“Unique knowledge of how to perform tasks or solve problems is at the heart of expert power.” (Sessions 2014) Martin Luther King’s journey for equality started at age seventeen in the church, giving his first speech, where his father was a pastor, as he was studying Sociology at Morehouse College. Benjamin E Mays was the president of the college, inspiring him to pursue social justice. After a second bachelor’s degree, the first was Sociology and the second was at Crozer Theological Seminary, Martin achieved a PhD in Theology at Boston University. He developed his expertise in social action since his teenage years. His social justice agenda had the right to vote as the solution to all of Jim Crow laws and persecutions. At that time Lyndon Johnson was the President of the United States of America. The following quote from the Selma movie paints the image as he spoke to President Johnson, proceeding a church bombing, which killed four young girls:
Because there have been thousands of racially motivated murders in the South, including those four girls… And you know the astounding fact that not one of these criminals who murder us when and why they want has ever been convicted. ... Not one conviction because they are protected by white officials chosen by an all-white electorate. And on the rare occasions that they face trial, they are freed by all-white juries. All-white because you can't serve on a jury unless you are registered to vote. (Selma 2014)
His expertise in Sociology, Law, and Theology as he was a pastor gave him great skill in writing speeches. He knew how to inspire a congregation, but his power could not come without his personal integrity. The following paragraphs will describe his personal powers such as his position and referent.
The influence practiced by “personal power is directly associated with a person's behavior, traits, and characteristics.” (Sessions 2014) An example of his personal power is when Jimmie Lee Jackson was murdered for participating in a march against the persecution of black people. He visited his family personally. His demeanor was humble as he spoke to his father, saying “There are no words to soothe you, Mr. Lee. There are no words. But I can tell you one thing for certain. God was the first to cry. He was the first to cry for your boy.” Martin Luther King Junior’s personal power was also expressed in his meetings with the President of the United States of America. He would confront President Johnson with a very deliberate agenda. His persistence got the president to see that legislations needed to be given executively. The president was in a power struggle with Martin Luther King until King’s movement was so momentous that the president’s “War on Poverty” was delayed. The word “fate” in the following quotation of President Lyndon Johnson indicates that he was compelled by Martin Luther King, making “history” to force executive action:
I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy. At times, history and fate meet at a single time in a single place. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama. There, long suffering men and women peacefully protested the denial of their rights as Americans. Rarely in any time does an issue lay bare the secret heart of America itself. The issue for equal rights for the American Negro is that issue. For this issue, many of them were brutally assaulted. There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is only an American problem. The Constitution says that no person shall be kept from voting because of his race or color. To correct the denial of this fundamental right, this Wednesday, I will send to Congress a law designed to eliminate these illegal barriers. The bill will strike down voting restrictions in all elections, federal, state and local. And we shall do this. We shall overcome. (Johnson 1965)
According to Lyndon Johnson comprehensive legislation was passed more than six months earlier to resolve the persecution of black people; however, it had little influence on state practices. As “history,” which the author analogizes to refer to Martin Luther King, and “fate,” which he analogizes to refer to President Lyndon Johnson, Martin’s “personal power is directly associated with [his] person's behavior, traits, and characteristics,” (Sessions 2014) compelling this speech by the President of the United States of America.
“Position power is a person's authority in connection with his or her position or title in an organization.” (Sessions 2014) As Martin King researched the best location to start his march to a state or national capital, he found that Selma, Alabama was the city. He sought a coalition with The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in Selma to gain a greater following. The leaders of the SNCC resisted Martin Luther King’s team, saying “Maybe we should just leave Selma...” (Selma 2014) One reason that the SNCC resisted is that MLK’s team failed in Albany. After the team’s negotiation fizzled, Martin observed the situation. Approaching the leaders of The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, he said the following Selma film transcript quote:
Enough of this now. I haven't the time for this. None of us got the time for this. John. James. The way our organization works is straightforward. We negotiate. We demonstrate. We resist. And on our best days, our adversary helps the matter by making a mistake. Now, we were in Albany for nine months and we made a lot of mistakes. But their sheriff, Laurie Pritchett, he never made a mistake. Kept his cool, kept arresting us in a humane way, carried people to the jail-wagons on stretchers. Day in, day out. There was no drama.
You mean there was no cameras.
Exactly. Now I know, we all understand, that you young people believe in working in the community long-term. Doing the good work to raise black consciousness. It's good grassroots work. I can't tell you how much we admire that. But what we do is negotiate, demonstrate, resist. And a big part of that is raising white consciousness. And in particular the consciousness of whichever white man happens to be sitting in the Oval Office. Right now, Johnson has other fish to fry and he'll ignore us if he can. The only way to stop him doing that is by being on the front page of the national press every morning and by being on the TV news every night. And that requires drama. Now... John. James. Answer me one question. I've been told the sheriff in this town isn't like Laurie Pritchett in Albany. He's a big ignorant bully like Bull Connor in Birmingham. Well, you tell me. You know Selma. You know Sheriff Jim Clark. Is he Laurie Pritchett? Or is he Bull Connor? (Selma 2014)
In this meeting Martin Luther King displayed a few influences. Informational and position powers was shown as well as a rational persuasion. Another influence that was expressed is that Martin was the higher management support that his team needed to achieve the coalition. MLK told James and John what happened in Albany; said their appreciation, revealing his personal friendly nature; and taught the methodology of his campaign. It took a while to win the full support of The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, but Martin’s input in the negotiation was a good start compared to leaving Selma. A personal scene in the movie had showed the referent power and personal relationship with a leader of the SNCC.
“Referent power occurs when a follower wants to be like or closely associate with the leader and demonstrate strong loyalty towards the leader.” (Sessions 2014) The campaign was straining on Martin King. Sometimes he would express discouragement in difficult times. After a march demonstration failure, he went on a drive with John Lewis, the SNCC leader. The following quote is a display of his loyalty towards Doctor King:
When I was working with SNCC on the Freedom Rides, the Montgomery bus reached the city limits. We got off. And out of nowhere, from all directions, they came. There was men, women. Kids, too. They had just about every makeshift weapon you could think of. I mean, bats, bricks, tire irons, pipes. I remember... I remember this little girl just clawing her nails into the side of my friend Jessie's face while her daddy... Her daddy beat him with an ax handle. Jessie was unconscious, and they just kept beating on him and beating on him. I must've passed out on the asphalt somewhere. Next day, I found myself patched up and sitting in a church. I could barely hold my head up, but I needed to be there. You were gonna be speaking. And I needed to hear you. And I was feeling down, but you got up there. I'm about to tell you right now. And I hope you hear me. You said that we would triumph. That we would triumph because there could be no other way. And you know what else you said? You said, “Fear not. We've come too far to turn back now.” (Selma 2014)
King’s referent power reflected through John back to him, yet John Lewis was not one of Doctor King’s main team members. The next quote will illustrate the comradery between Martin and his close associate. After a demonstration landed MLK’s team in jail, he asked downheartedly. “What are we doing, Ralphy?” (Selma 2014) Martin’s conversation with his team member is as follows according to the film:
We take it piece by piece. Like we been doing. We build the path as we can. Rock by rock.
This cell is probably bugged.
It probably is.
Oh, Lord. They're gonna ruin me so they can ruin this movement. They are.
Look at the birds of the air that they do not sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father doth feed them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?
A follower, sustaining their leader, is evident of their devotion. It is also evident of Martin Luther King’s referent power.
In conclusion Martin Luther King Junior set the foundation of his life by studying society with his first bachelor’s degree during his teenage years. He was only thirty-nine years old when he was murdered, yet he practiced influencing social justice for more than twenty years. He became an intentional leader, using meekness with his powers. Martin was a powerful expert, knowing how to execute influential events, protests, and movements. He had the integrity to lead his life and other’s lives, saying “I'm no different than anybody else” (Selma 2014) as he refused government protection. His position gave him authority to use many types of influences to accomplish what he knew what needed to happen. Martin Luther King’s dream is still a referent power that people feel today, promoting equality among all races, cultures, and peoples.