Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an American preacher, humanitarian and activist who is best known for his role in the African-American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s; he was inspired by faith (and Mahatma Gandhi’s peaceful teachings). He used power of words as well as demonstrations like protests, sit-ins, boycotts – all with a goal to achieve equality for all people regardless of race or class or gender. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., this true American Hero really inspires us…let’s learn more about him!
Martin Luther King Jr. was born on Tuesday, January 15, 1929, in Atlanta Georgia at 12:00pm with his birth name being Michael King, like his father who changed both their names to Martin Luther. Martin Jr. skipped ninth and twelfth grade because he was so smart for his age. He enrolled at Morehouse College when he was fifteen years old; however, during his senior year, it is said that Martin took his first steps towards activism by writing a letter to the editor of The Atlanta Constitution declaring African Americans were entitled to basic rights and opportunities offered to American citizens.
Martin Luther King Jr, after graduating from Morehouse and Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, began doctoral studies at Boston University. During this time he met his future wife Coretta Scott who was a student at the New England Conservatory of Music. On June 18th, 1953 they were married in Alabama where Carretas’ family lived. Martin and Coretta became the parents of four children- Yolanda King, Martin Luther King III (Dexter Scott), Bernice King, and daughter Circee Edgar-Martin.
Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama on December 1st, 1955 for refusing to give her seat to a white person. That same night Martin met with other activists and planned what would become known as the Montgomery bus boycott. The boycott lasted over 380 days and he was arrested and harassed by people who did not want the changes he fought for. Then, the US Supreme Court ruled segregation in transportation unconstitutional!
In 1963, Martin led a coalition of several civil rights groups and organized a non-violent campaign in Birmingham Alabama. The nation was shocked to see images of young African Americans attacked by police dogs and high-pressure fire hoses on TV. It was during this campaign that Martin wrote his now-famous letter from a Birmingham jail after being arrested again for his participation in the demonstrations. Later that year, he helped organize the March on Washington where he delivered an iconic speech called “I Have a Dream.”.
In 1964 he became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Prize for Peace; when he found out about it, Martin promised to donate over $50K of prize money back towards continuing important work within the Civil Rights Movement. He delivered yet another powerful speech before accepting his award. Congress passed landmark legislation The Civil Rights Act of 1964 due largely because of these events.
Martin led a march from Selma to the Capitol building in Montgomery for justice in March 1965. At the conclusion of his long march, Martin gave another powerful speech which helped rally more supporters. That same year Congress went on to pass the Voting Rights Act that was able to eliminate any remaining barriers African Americans had with voting rights due to past discrimination and oppression by getting passed legislation protecting their right to vote.
On April 4th, 1968 Martin was shot while standing on a balcony outside his hotel room at Lorraine Motel in Memphis Tennessee; he died later at St Joseph’s Hospital and was buried back home in Atlanta Georgia, he was 39. Dr. King changed American history forever.
Martin Luther King, Jr. spent his life fighting for the equal rights of all people regardless of race, religion, or nationality and was more than successful. He is considered America’s greatest human rights advocate. In 1983 President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday honoring him which is called Martin Luther King Jr Day or MLK Day. The day has been officially observed by all 50 states since 2000.
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