Martin Luther King Jr. was a social activist and Baptist minister who played a key role in the American civil rights movement from the mid-1950s until his assassination in 1968. King sought equality and human rights for African Americans, the economically disadvantaged and all victims of injustice through peaceful protest. He was the driving force behind watershed events such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the 1963 March on Washington, which helped bring about such landmark legislation as the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and is remembered each year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a U.S. federal holiday since 1986.
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When Was Martin Luther King Born?
Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, the second child of Martin Luther King Sr., a pastor, and Alberta Williams King, a former schoolteacher.
Along with his older sister Christine and younger brother Alfred Daniel Williams, he grew up in the city’s Sweet Auburn neighborhood, then home to some of the most prominent and prosperous African Americans in the country.
A gifted student, King attended segregated public schools and at the age of 15 was admitted to Morehouse College, the alma mater of both his father and maternal grandfather, where he studied medicine and law.
Although he had not intended to follow in his father’s footsteps by joining the ministry, he changed his mind under the mentorship of Morehouse’s president, Dr. Benjamin Mays, an influential theologian and outspoken advocate for racial equality. After graduating in 1948, King entered Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, where he earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree, won a prestigious fellowship and was elected president of his predominantly white senior class.
King then enrolled in a graduate program at Boston University, completing his coursework in 1953 and earning a doctorate in systematic theology two years later. While in Boston he met Coretta Scott, a young singer from Alabama who was studying at the New England Conservatory of Music. The couple wed in 1953 and settled in Montgomery, Alabama, where King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.
The Kings had four children: Yolanda Denise King, Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott King and Bernice Albertine King.
Montgomery Bus Boycott
The King family had been living in Montgomery for less than a year when the highly segregated city became the epicenter of the burgeoning struggle for civil rights in America, galvanized by the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954.
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, secretary of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery bus and was arrested. Activists coordinated a bus boycott that would continue for 381 days.The Montgomery Bus Boycott placed a severe economic strain on the public transit system and downtown business owners. They chose Martin Luther King Jr. as the protest’s leader and official spokesman.
By the time the Supreme Court ruled segregated seating on public buses unconstitutional in November 1956, King—heavily influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and the activist Bayard Rustin—had entered the national spotlight as an inspirational proponent of organized, nonviolent resistance.
King had also become a target for white supremacists, who firebombed his family home that January.
On September 20, 1958, Izola Ware Curry walked into a Harlem department store where King was signing books and asked, “Are you Martin Luther King?” When he replied “yes,” she stabbed him in the chest with a knife. King survived, and the attempted assassination only reinforced his dedication to nonviolence: “The experience of these last few days has deepened my faith in the relevance of the spirit of nonviolence if necessary social change is peacefully to take place.”
READ MORE: Why MLK's Right-Hand Man, Bayard Rustin, Was Nearly Written Out of History
Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Emboldened by the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, in 1957 he and other civil rights activists—most of them fellow ministers—founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a group committed to achieving full equality for African Americans through nonviolent protest.
The SCLC motto was “Not one hair of one head of one person should be harmed.” King would remain at the helm of this influential organization until his death.
In his role as SCLC president, Martin Luther King Jr. traveled across the country and around the world, giving lectures on nonviolent protest and civil rights as well as meeting with religious figures, activists and political leaders.
During a month-long trip to India in 1959, he had the opportunity to meet family members and followers of Gandhi, the man he described in his autobiography as “the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change.” King also authored several books and articles during this time.
Letter from Birmingham Jail
In 1960 King and his family moved to Atlanta, his native city, where he joined his father as co-pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church. This new position did not stop King and his SCLC colleagues from becoming key players in many of the most significant civil rights battles of the 1960s.
Their philosophy of nonviolence was put to a particularly severe test during the Birmingham campaign of 1963, in which activists used a boycott, sit-ins and marches to protest segregation, unfair hiring practices and other injustices in one of America’s most racially divided cities.
Arrested for his involvement on April 12, King penned the civil rights manifesto known as the “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” an eloquent defense of civil disobedience addressed to a group of white clergymen who had criticized his tactics.
March on Washington
Later that year, Martin Luther King Jr. worked with a number of civil rights and religious groups to organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a peaceful political rally designed to shed light on the injustices Black Americans continued to face across the country.
Held on August 28 and attended by some 200,000 to 300,000 participants, the event is widely regarded as a watershed moment in the history of the American civil rights movement and a factor in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
READ MORE: For Martin Luther King Jr., Nonviolent Protest Never Meant ‘Wait and See’
"I Have a Dream" Speech
The March on Washington culminated in King’s most famous address, known as the “I Have a Dream” speech, a spirited call for peace and equality that many consider a masterpiece of rhetoric.
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Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial—a monument to the president who a century earlier had brought down the institution of slavery in the United States—he shared his vision of a future in which “this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'”
The speech and march cemented King’s reputation at home and abroad; later that year he was named “Man of the Year” by TIME magazine and in 1964 became, at the time, the youngest person ever awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
In the spring of 1965, King’s elevated profile drew international attention to the violence that erupted between white segregationists and peaceful demonstrators in Selma, Alabama, where the SCLC and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) had organized a voter registration campaign.
Captured on television, the brutal scene outraged many Americans and inspired supporters from across the country to gather in Alabama and take part in the Selma to Montgomery march led by King and supported by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who sent in federal troops to keep the peace.
That August, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, which guaranteed the right to vote—first awarded by the 15th Amendment—to all African Americans.
READ MORE: 7 Things You May Not Know About MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech
Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
The events in Selma deepened a growing rift between Martin Luther King Jr. and young radicals who repudiated his nonviolent methods and commitment to working within the established political framework.
As more militant Black leaders such as Stokely Carmichael rose to prominence, King broadened the scope of his activism to address issues such as the Vietnam War and poverty among Americans of all races. In 1967, King and the SCLC embarked on an ambitious program known as the Poor People’s Campaign, which was to include a massive march on the capital.
On the evening of April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated. He was fatally shot while standing on the balcony of a motel in Memphis, where King had traveled to support a sanitation workers’ strike. In the wake of his death, a wave of riots swept major cities across the country, while President Johnson declared a national day of mourning.
James Earl Ray, an escaped convict and known racist, pleaded guilty to the murder and was sentenced to 99 years in prison. He later recanted his confession and gained some unlikely advocates, including members of the King family, before his death in 1998.
READ MORE: Why Martin Luther King’s Family Believes James Earl Ray Was Not His Killer
After years of campaigning by activists, members of Congress and Coretta Scott King, among others, in 1983 President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a U.S. federal holiday in honor of King.
Observed on the third Monday of January, Martin Luther King Day was first celebrated in 1986.
Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes
While his “I Have a Dream” speech is the most well-known piece of his writing, Martin Luther King Jr. was the author of multiple books, include “Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story,” “Why We Can’t Wait,” “Strength to Love,” “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” and the posthumously published “Trumpet of Conscience” with a foreword by Coretta Scott King. Here are some of the most famous Martin Luther King Jr. quotes:
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
“The time is always right to do what is right.”
"True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice."
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
“Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.”
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.”
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant."
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
“Be a bush if you can't be a tree. If you can't be a highway, just be a trail. If you can't be a sun, be a star. For it isn't by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.”
“Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?’”
Martin Luther King Jr.
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Martin Luther King, Jr., is a civil rights legend. In the mid-1950s, Dr. King led the movement to end segregation and counter prejudice in the United States through the means of peaceful protest. His speeches—some of the most iconic of the 20th century—had a profound effect on the national consciousness.
King was assassinated in 1968, when he was not yet 40 years old. Born in Atlanta in 1929, King could very much still be alive today and would have celebrated his 93rd birthday on January 15, 2022.
MLK helped bring about the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Each of these bills helped African Americans access civil rights across the country. King's speeches and writings allow us to continue learning from his beliefs and practices today.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an activist and pastor who promoted and organized non-violent protests. He played a pivotal role in advancing civil rights in America and has won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to fight racial inequality in a non-violent matter.
The civil rights movement was a struggle for justice and equality for African Americans that took place mainly in the 1950s and 1960s. It was led by people like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, the Little Rock Nine and many others.
In the year of 1963, on August 28 was a speech given by Dr Martin Luther King JR. On the mArch of Washington, the purpose of the speech was to end segregation on blacks and whites against discrimination.
The Nobel Peace Prize 1964 was awarded to Martin Luther King Jr. "for his non-violent struggle for civil rights for the Afro-American population"
Martin Luther King, Jr., (January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968) was born Michael Luther King, Jr., but later had his name changed to Martin.. With a fellowship won at Crozer, he enrolled in graduate studies at Boston University, completing his residence for the doctorate in 1953 and receiving the degree in 1955.. He was ready, then, early in December, 1955, to accept the leadership of the first great Negro nonviolent demonstration of contemporary times in the United States, the bus boycott described by Gunnar Jahn in his presentation speech in honor of the laureate.. In 1957 he was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization formed to provide new leadership for the now burgeoning civil rights movement.. At the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize.. Bennett, Lerone, Jr., What Manner of Man: A Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Chicago, Johnson, 1964.. New York, Time Life Books, 1968.. King, Martin Luther, Jr., The Measure of a Man .. King, Martin Luther, Jr., Strength to Love .. King, Martin Luther, Jr., The Trumpet of Conscience .. King, Martin Luther, Jr., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?. King, Martin Luther, Jr., Why We Can’t Wait .. “Martin Luther King, Jr.” , in Current Biography Yearbook 1965 , ed.. Reddick, Lawrence D., Crusader without Violence: A Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr . New York, Harper, 1959.. Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1964. To cite this section. MLA style: Martin Luther King Jr. – Biography.
(Martin Luther King Jr.; Atlanta, 1929 - Memphis, 1968) Pastor baptista estadounidense, defensor de los derechos civiles. La larga lucha de los norteamericanos de raza negra por alcanzar la plenitud de derechos conoció desde 1955 una aceleración en cuyo liderazgo iba a destacar muy pronto el joven pastor Martin Luther King.
(Martin Luther King Jr.; Atlanta, 1929 - Memphis, 1968) Pastor baptista estadounidense, defensor de los derechos civiles.. Martin Luther King. Convertido en pastor baptista, en 1954 se hizo cargo de una iglesia en la ciudad de Montgomery, Alabama.. En esta ocasión, Martin Luther King fue encarcelado y posteriormente liberado por la intercesión de John Fitgerald Kennedy, entonces candidato. a la presidencia de Estados Unidos, pero logró para los negros la igualdad de acceso a las bibliotecas, los comedores y los estacionamientos.. En el verano de 1963, su lucha alcanzó uno de sus momentos culminantes al encabezar una gigantesca marcha sobre Washington en la que. participaron unas 250.000 personas, ante las cuales pronunció el discurso hoy titulado I have a dream (Tengo un sueño), una bellísima. alocución en favor de la paz y la igualdad entre los seres humanos.. No obstante, ni las buenas intenciones del presidente, quien moriría asesinado meses más tarde, ni el vigor ético del mensaje de. Martin Luther King, premio Nobel de la Paz en 1964, parecían suficientes para contener el avance de los grupos nacionalistas de color contrarios. a la integración y favorables a la violencia, como Poder Negro, Panteras Negras y Musulmanes Negros.. El mismo año del Nobel, el presidente Lyndon Johnson , sucesor de Kennedy tras el magnicidio, promulgó la ley de derechos. civiles, que consagraba la igualdad de todos los ciudadanos.
Martin Luther King Jr was one of America’s most influential civil rights activists. His passionate, but non-violent protests, helped to raise awareness of racial inequalities in America, leading to significant political change. Martin Luther King was also an eloquent orator who captured the imagination and hearts of people, both black and white. Early Life of […]
Martin Luther King Jr was one of America’s most influential civil rights activists.. Martin Luther King was also an eloquent orator who captured the imagination and hearts of people, both black and white.. During his time at University Martin Luther King became aware of the vast inequality and injustice faced by black Americans; in particular, he was influenced by Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violent protest.. A turning point in the life of Martin Luther King was the Montgomery Bus Boycott which he helped to promote.. The bus company refused to back down and so Martin Luther King helped to organise a strike where coloured people refused to use any of the city buses.. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X briefly meet in 1964 before going to listen to a Senate debate about civil rights in Washington.. Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr Martin Luther King was an inspirational and influential speaker; he had the capacity to move and uplift his audiences.. The following year, Martin Luther King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work towards social justice.. However, King’s opposition to the Vietnam War did not endear him to the Johnson administration; King also began receiving increased scrutiny from the authorities, such as the FBI.. In his honour, America has instigated a national Martin Luther King Day.. Essential Writings of Martin Luther King at Amazon.com. People who fought for human /civil rights – People who campaigned for equality, civil rights and civil justice.
What religious leaders and civil rights activists provided Martin Luther King, Jr. with guidance and inspiration? Find out here.
While King read many books about Gandhi, it was Howard Thurman who first introduced the concept of nonviolence and civil disobedience to the young pastor.. Benjamin Mays, mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr.Public Domain “To be honored by being requested to give the eulogy at the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is like asking one to eulogize his deceased son — so close and so precious was he to me ….. When King was a student at Morehouse College , Benjamin Mays was president of the school.. King characterized Mays as his “spiritual mentor” and “intellectual father.” As president of Morehouse College, Mays held weekly inspirational morning sermons that were meant to challenge his students.. When King was thrust into the national spotlight as the modern civil rights movement picked up steam, Mays remained a mentor who was willing to provide insight to many of King’s speeches.. When King became the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in 1954, the church’s congregation was already prepared for a religious leader who understood the importance of community activism.. Before Johns accepted his position at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, he taught and ministered, becoming one of the most prominent Black religious leaders in the United States.. King, not yet a prominent civil rights leader or even a grassroots activist yet, became inspired by the words of one of the speakers—Mordecai Wyatt Johnson.. In 1957, Johnson offered King a position as dean of Howard University’s School of Religion.. It was men such as Howard Thurman, Mordecai Johnson, Bayard Rustin that introduced and encouraged King to read the teachings of Gandhi.. Benjamin Mays, who was one of King's greatest mentors, provided King with an understanding of history.. And finally, Vernon Johns, who preceded King at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, readied the congregation for the Montgomery Bus Boycott and King's entrance into social activism.