THE BOGSIDE ARTISTS' MARTIN LUTHER KING MURAL
In 2007 the Smitsonian Institute included Northern Ireland in its annual Folk-Life cultural festival. The Bogside Artists were invited to take part, despite vociferous objections from certain members of the Northern Ireland Arts Council (they know who they are). It was suggested to them in Washington that they reproduce their Peace Mural on the Mall. They did just that, but decided that it would be appropriate to pay homage to Martin Luther King while they were at it. The mural was very warmly received, even if relatively few of the 400,000+ people who visited the festival were aware of the Irish connection. Their gallant enterprise was turned into a documentary film for RTE. The reasons why they chose to paint King are not difficult to understand. The mural was a great success and finished on time for the 4th July celebrations on the Mall where King made his most memorable speech for the cause he gave his life for.
MARTIN LUTHER KING
It cannot be doubted that Martin Luther King was the most influential figure in the Northern Irish s truggle for human rights. Most people who witnessed it on television can recall King's speech on Washington's Capitol, the famous "I have a dream" speech that he delivered to over a quarter of a million people. His irrepressible fight against segregation and discrimination against blacks in housing and jobs resonated profoundly with Northern Irish Catholics who saw themselves as "the white negro"... well acquainted with political oppression. The phrase may have come from the late Norman Mailer's 1957 essay on American sexual politics, but for Northern Irish Catholics it pointed to victimization and nothing else. Televised abuse of civil rights campaigners and marchers made King's Civil Rights Movement the most significant mass protest against injustice in American history. The pattern was readily emulated. The media and the use of it were to play an equally important role in the North's fight for justice.
King's non-violent protests were modeled on Mahatma Gandhi's leadership. He was also an outspoken critic of American imperialism and the Vietnam war. These views would have helped determine his fate. Politically, he was a socialist but stopped well short of Communism with its "materialistic interpretation of history" that denied religion what he fervently believed to be its proper status and place in the world.
In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end segregation and racial discrimination through non-violent means. Many of the movement's aims were achieved when the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964 swiftly followed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. On February 1st 1967 The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) was formed. On April 4th 1968 King was shot dead at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis while he was giving a speech from the balcony. On August of that year the first Northern Irish civil rights march began from Coalisland to Dungannon. Later, a march in Derry on october 5th ended in police violence that was televised world wide.
In a speech delivered at Boston University, King's Alma Mater, Nobel Peace Laureate John Hume paid tribute to the American human rights leader as one of the major influences on his work in Ireland.