On this day…
Martin Luther King, Jr., an American pastor, activist, and leader of the African-American Civil Rights Movement, was born on January 15, 1929. King was best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights through the use of nonviolent protests and civil disobedience.
Born Michael Luther King, he later changed his name to Martin to honor the German reformer Martin Luther. Son of a Baptist Minister, King entered Morehouse College at the age of 15 and was ordained a Baptist minister at the age of 17. After three years of theological study at Crozer Theological Seminary, King graduated as the president of his class. He then went on to enroll in graduate studies at Boston University, receiving his doctorate degree in 1955.
Through his studies at Crozer and Boston, King was exposed to the works of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, whose ideas became a centerpiece of King’s own nonviolent protests. King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He became the pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, and was, by this time, a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1955 King led the Montgomery Bus Boycott, one of the first great nonviolent demonstrations of the Civil Rights movement. The aim was to boycott segregated city bus lines and end racial segregation in public transportation. The boycott lasted 382 days and was capped off by the Supreme Court declaring the laws requiring segregation on buses as unconstitutional.
In 1957 King helped establish the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and served as its first president. Through the SCLC, King led many struggles against segregation in Albany, Georgia and Birmingham, Alabama. These nonviolent protests attracted national attention after televised news coverage of the fierce police responses. King helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous, “I Have a Dream” speech. It was also through the March on Washington that King established a reputation as being a radical.
King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his nonviolent combatting of racial inequality. Soon after, King began taking his movements north towards Chicago. He also began expanding his focus to include poverty and the Vietnam War. This alienated him from many of his supports, as they thought the Civil Rights Movement was more important. King had planned a Poor People’s March on Washington in 1968, but took a detour to support a sanitation workers’ strike in Memphis, Tennessee. On the evening of April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated while standing on the balcony of his motel room.
You can find more information on Martin Luther King, Jr. and his works, by checking out the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Content Collection, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech”, and more, at Discoveryeducation.com!!!