Luther King Jr.
was a famous civil rights activist in
the 1960s who spoke openly about the need
for equality and peace between races in
the United States. King was also a Baptist
minister and founder of the Southern Christian
Leadership Conference as well as the leader
of the 1963 March on Washington where
he gave his famous "I Have a Dream"
speech. He also won the Nobel Peace Prize
in 1964 for his work against segregation
and racial discrimination.
Luther King was born on January 15, 1929
in Atlanta, Georgia as the second child
to the Reverend Martin Luther King and
his wife Alberta Williams. King was born
under the name Micheal which he later
changed to Martin in honor of his father.
He spent his childhood under the watchful
eye of his father's church, even singing
with the church choir. King excelled in
his studies and entered college at the
age of fifteen, having skipped ninth and
twelfth grades. In 1948 he graduated with
a degree in sociology from Morehouse College
and entered Crozer Theological Seminary
in Chester, Pennsylvania. Three years
later, in 1951, King graduated from the
seminary with a Bachelor of Divinity and
began his doctoral studies at Boston University.
He received his Ph.D. In Theology on June
his time at Boston University, King became
a pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist
Church in Alabama. He continued to practice
until his graduation from the university.
When Rosa Parks refused to give up her
seat on a bus on December 1, 1955, King
led the Montgomery Bus Boycott which lasted
for 381 days during which time King was
threatened and his house was bombed. The
famous boycott eventually ended with a
ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court issuing
a ban on racial segregation on public
boycott became a significant part of King's
involvement in racial politics and helped
launch him into the spotlight of the civil
rights movement. In 1957 King founded
the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
(SCLC) to organize and harness the power
of black churches and non-violent protests
for civil rights. King found inspiration
from Mohandas Gandhi and used this to
help develop the peaceful protests of
peaceful protests were met with some resistance,
but his persistence kept the media coverage
focused on his efforts to bring attention
to the Jim Crow Laws. It wasn't until
the historical March on Washington, however,
that King really attracted major attention.
It was this march, the largest gathering
of people in Washington at the time, that
helped bring Congressional attention to
the issues of segregation. It was also
during this March that King gave his infamous
"I Have a Dream" speech in which
he eloquently described his dreams and
goals for a fully integrated and equal
America. King's non-violent protests in
pursuit of a better society won him the
Nobel Peace Prize in October of 1964.
continued his pursuit of equality and
took his cause to the north to establish
the SCLC in Chicago. He was surprised
with the amount of resistance against
his organization in the area from all
different sides of the community. King
solidified his organization and even lived
in the slums to show his dedication to
understanding the area and their struggles.
He eventually left Chicago and returned
to the South, leaving the young Jesse
Jackson in charge of the Chicago branch
of the SCLC.
continued to oppose racial segregation
and conflict, openly voicing his opinions
against the Vietnam War and the struggles
of poverty at home and abroad. In March
of 1968, King traveled to Memphis, Tennessee
to talk on behalf of the public works
employees there and the discrimination
associated with their wages. On April
3, 1968, King gave his "I've been
to the Mountaintop" speech. The next
evening, on April 4, 1968, King was assassinated
while standing on the balcony of the motel
in which he was staying. He died shorty
thereafter at St. Joseph's Hospital. He
was mourned nationwide and riots ensued
over his death.
wife, Coretta Scott King, continued King's
work after his death and became a figure
head for civil rights.
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