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From the time of king Hammurabi in 1800BC societies have tried to define human rights. From this time the first official code (set of laws) was made. Throughout history individuals such as Cyrus, Buddha, Confucius, Socrates, Jesus Christ and Muhammad have influenced the collective thinking of societies in order to influence their views on the rights of individuals. On the 10th December in 1948 the United Nations brought together the collective thinking of these great leaders, wrote them down and asked all nations to sign up to the declaration, to put individual rights in a nationalistic view. Seven years after the United States signed up to this declaration White Americans were enjoying their greater rights while Black Americans were still noticing no change in their lives. This is when Martin Luther King Jr steps into his place in history so he would give this ignored population of America their rights.
Human rights were born from individuals understanding natural rights. These are the rights that Buddha, Confucius, Jesus etc. taught us and we feel within ourselves. An example of natural rights is to treat others as we would want them to treat us. After conquering Babylon in 539BC Cyrus the Great did an unimaginable thing. He freed the slaves and told people they could choose whom they like to worship. This was one of the first times in known history that rights were documented (on the Cyrus cylinder). From this beginning other great leaders at various times throughout history have added to and built on these rights.
Hammurabi’s code pre dates the Cyrus cylinder buy approximately 1250 years, but this is aimed more towards individual rights and laws than Cyrus` freedom of expression, where I believe human rights were truly born. An example of Hammurabi’s code is “If someone cuts down a tree on someone else land, he must pay for it.” Whereas in the Cyrus’ cylinder he included things like “People had the freedom to choose their religion”, which are rights on a far grander scale.
On December the 10th 1948, led by Eleanor Roosevelt, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by over 50 countries.
Those Human rights are the only rights that apply to everyone, everywhere, no matter what race or religion you are they are universal to every human being. There were 30 rights written in the declaration. The declaration is now the worlds’ most widely accepted document on human rights.
When Martin Luther King marched for the equality of Black Americans in America he was marching for the rights that had been granted in the 1948 signing of the declaration of human rights, but had not been upheld by the government. In 1957 King and other leader formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and King was made their leader. They were fighting for equality, and the right that Black people should have the same rights Whites. He wanted the suffering to stop and the harmony to arrive.
In the beginning the government was not listening to the organization, but when King was made leader he brought in a non-violence approach that he was sure would work. He believed non-violence was powerful weapon unique to history as it can cut without wounding. After the boycotts, speeches, sit-ins and marches multiple breakthroughs were made. For example the right for Blacks to use the same transport as Whites, the right to the equal education, the right to use the same public facilities and the right to vote.
Societies know what is right and just regarding the rights of people, but it takes great leaders like Martin Luther King to stand up and rally people to fight for these rights and to change the laws of society. People like Martin Luther King gain inspiration from the words of religious and historical figures such as Cyrus, Buddha, Confucius, Socrates, Jesus Christ and Muhammad. Martin Luther King and other leaders brought the rights of the Black Americans forward, but still in many counties these same rights are still ignored. These countries need heroes like Martin Luther King to lead their people. The Declaration of Human Rights should be read and understood by as many people as possible and we should, as a nation stand up for those who don’t have these rights.