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The humanities are one of the most important scholarly areas because they reveal different aspects of a culture and how its people articulate themselves. The humanities may also assist with explaining civilizations at a certain moment. The many areas of humanities capture the expressions of the human spirit. They are diverse, encompassing subcategories such as music, sculpture, history, philosophy, literature, theology, and the performing arts, among others. Both of these disciplines share one thing in common: they offer insight into the history and traditions of a certain community that has been passed down over centuries. North America has been blessed with many talents in the past and also in the present day, some of whom influenced their respective fields for good. The paper focuses on two great personalities in the field of humanities whose remarkable contributions are worth their salt.
1. Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most renowned figures in America society for his contributions in the advocacy of human rights. His name is likely to feature in most conversations discussing black history and the struggle against discrimination of the black minority population by their Caucasian counterparts. King had a strong Christian foundation as his family had established a long tenure as preachers in Atlanta Georgia, at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. His religious background influences his way of reasoning as he believed that all men were equal before God thus no one should be treated as a lesser human being just because they were created differently.
During his time, the black community had been victimized for years. Their history dated back to the days of slavery in the colonial period where they were regarded as servants of the white race. Despite the abolishment of slavery after independence, the black community still struggled to find their place in society. The whites who were the majority were still unwilling to accept them as their fellow countrymen. They imposed outright injustice on the black people by denying them their right to enjoy equal social, political and economic opportunities. They had established separate schools for them and even insisted that black people should not live in the same neighborhoods as the whites. They were also required to use alternative means of transport and to use separate social facilities as they were regarded as inferiors. The regimes of the day did little to help as they viewed the black community as insignificant players in the way the nation was governed. There were black elected representatives who could advocate for the rights of their people since they had been denied the right to engage in active politics. Additionally, they were not allowed to form parties that could engage in active politics. Economic sabotage against the blacks was evident as they found it very difficult to secure good jobs that could help them improve their standards of living. Most blacks thus lived in abject poverty. This was the perfect recipe for chaos because, by the mid 20th century, they felt that they had had enough. It was time for change, and this sparked the civil rights movement.
King, being one of the few members of the black community privileged to have secured a good education, decided to join the civil rights movement. Since he had studied theology like many members of his family, he identified the pulpit as the perfect avenue to air his progressive views and express what he felt about the blatant mistreatment of his race. King is remembered for delivering hard-hitting speeches which highlighted the inequalities evident in American society at the time. He was also a strong advocate for workers’ rights, agitating for equal job opportunities for all citizens. He led many non-violent demonstrations during the black workers’ protests and was also vocal during the bus boycotts of the 1950s that aimed at calling for equality in the public transport services. This was after several incidents of black people being harassed and forced to give up their seats in public buses were reported. King was part of the public bus boycotts where his people vowed to walk to work, thus paralyzing the public transport sector (King 25). For his role in the protests, King became a major target for the authorities who arrested him severally. He was also subjected to victimization as his house was bombed at one time.
King realized that he could not achieve his heart of desire of attaining justice and equality for the black community by sticking to his hometown. He thus found it wise to expand the scope of his operations. He set his mind on touring the major cities in the country, especially those inhabited by black people. His aim was to create awareness on a national level that the time had come for justice to prevail. He wanted to create a national revolution in the land, as he believed in the power of the masses. His greatest weapon was his tongue; Martin Luther possessed great oratory skills that could invoke emotions in the hearts and minds of his audience. He thus traveled across several states, covering close to six million miles and delivering close to three thousand speeches in the decade between 1957 and 1968.
His most famous speech was the “I have a dream” speech delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC in the year 1963. Focusing on workers’ rights and black freedom, King spoke of his vision of an American society where citizens would be judged on their merit and character and not on the basis of their skin color (King 153). This remains one of the greatest speeches recorded in history and is still used as a point of reference in present day America. His other notable work was his ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ which he wrote while in prison (King 177). He spoke of the need for all races to embrace each other and build a better country. For all his efforts, King’s crowning moment came when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, alongside other recognitions such as the New York Times man of the year award. He died as a hero in 1968 when he was assassinated while leading a workers’ protest in Memphis, Tennessee.
2. Michael Jackson
The world of showbiz in the United States has had many twists and turns over the past few decades, with many top artists rising out of oblivion to become global successes. However, only a handful can match the legendary musical career of Michael Jackson, who is widely regarded as the greatest pop and R&B artists in history. Michael’s story often leaves many people astonished as they wonder how one man could take the world by storm as Michael did during his years. Born into a musical family, Michael started his music journey at a tender age and was already performing in concerts at the age of five. He began as a member of the popular group, the Jackson Five, which was mentored by their father. The team comprised of his siblings and thus they were exposed to the sphere of entertainment while still kids. This grooming prepared them for their careers later in life, though Michael emerged as the standout success from the group when he launched his solo career.
The 1980s was the decade that underlined Michael Jackson’s authority in the music arena on a global scale. He made hits after hits and gained worldwide recognition as the stand-out performer at the time. His most famous hits include Thriller, Bad, Billie Jean, Dirty Diana, among many others. He sold millions of copies worldwide and is to date still regarded as the world’s most successful music star, judging by the numbers he raked in sales (Taraborrelli 21). His album ‘Thriller’ remains number one as the most sold music album in history, selling an estimated sixty-five million copies to date. A common phrase states that music knows no barriers. Jackson’s influence was proof of this saying as he managed to cut across all ages, religions, and races. He had fans from all corners of the world and was openly welcomed in the major cities of the world. His song ‘Black and White’ remains iconic to date as it addressed the thorny issue of racial relations that had dogged the US for many years, dating back to the era of slavery. In the song, he claimed that all people are important and deserve an equal chance in life, whether they are black or white. For his musical success, he received many awards during his lifetime, including the Grammys, and the American Music Awards where he won may titles and numerous nominations (Greenburg 43). He was also recognized as history’s most successful entertainer by the Guinness Book of Records.
Another factor that propelled Michel Jackson to stardom was his overall versatility as a performer. Not only was he skilled as a singer and songwriter but was also a talented dancer who always left his fans screaming for more whenever he was on stage. He incorporated the robotic break-dance style and the moonwalk in his music videos, and he never disappointed on stage. His style influenced many dancers around the world and dance emerged as another popular field in showbiz by itself (Wiley 18). Michael was also a fashion icon, and he popularized many designs in the 1980s and the early 90s. He is also famed for opening the door of opportunities to black music performers to get their content on television. He single-handedly brought the now popular music channel MTV to prominence on a global scale, and the channel has contributed to the rise of many other stars since then. Michael was also a renowned philanthropist, and he even composed the popular song ‘We are the World’ which called on the privileged people to support humanitarian courses around the globe.
In spite of his global superstar status, Michael Jackson had his fair share of controversies. For instance, he was accused severally of sexual abuse which gained wide publicity due to his fame. He also often attracted controversy for his personal relationships with women. The star was also said to abuse drugs. His death in the year 2005 was clouded in mystery as there were widespread rumors that he may have died as a result of over-intoxication, which was caused by a drug overdose. However, these incidences were insufficient to delete the history that he wrote. In fact, his funeral service was broadcast on national TV and was attended by celebrities and personalities from all walks of life that came to show their last respect to the fallen icon. Fans have continued purchasing his music, and he has been ranked number one on the list of most posthumous sales in the world. Michael Jackson was indeed a legend that revolutionized showbiz, and his legacy will remain intact for decades to come.
Greenburg, Zack O'Malley. Michael Jackson, Inc.: The rise, fall, and rebirth of a billion-dollar empire. Simon and Schuster, 2014.
King Jr, Martin Luther. "Letter from Birmingham jail." Liberating faith: Religious voices for justice, peace, and ecological wisdom (2012): 177-187.
King Jr, Martin Luther. Stride toward freedom: The Montgomery story. Vol. 1. Beacon Press, 2010.
King, Martin Luther, and Washington James Melvin. "I have a Dream." (1992): 153.
Taraborrelli, J. Randy. Michael Jackson: The Magic, the Madness, the Whole Story, 1958-2009. Hachette UK, 2009.
Wiley, Christopher. "Putting the Music Back into Michael Jackson Studies." (2012): 101-116.
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