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Tue, 01.15.1929

Martin Luther King Jr., Minister, and Visionary born

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This date marks the birth of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1929.  He was a Black minister and activist.

From Atlanta, he was the eldest son of Martin Luther King Sr., a Baptist minister, and Alberta Williams King.  King entered Morehouse College at 15. He graduated with a degree in sociology in 1948 and went to Boston University to earn a doctoral degree in systematic theology.

On June 18, 1953, 16 months after they met, Coretta Scott and Martin Luther King were married by his father on the lawn of Coretta’s parent’s home in Marion, Alabama.

King’s education exposed him to conditions that related Christian theology to the struggles of oppressed peoples.  His first ministry was in Montgomery, Alabama. He was the Montgomery Improvement Association president, which directed the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

In 1957, King helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in a series of protest campaigns that gained national attention. King's 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech expressed the hopes of the American Civil Rights movement in oratory as moving as any address in American history.  This was followed by his Letter From a Birmingham Jail, which was published after one of his many arrests.

Following years of demonstrations, his speech created political momentum with others, resulting in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. King was also awarded the 1964 Nobel Prize for peace. Throughout 1966 and 1967, King increasingly focused his civil rights activism on economic "class" issues.

This took King to Memphis, Tennessee, to support striking Black garbage workers in the spring of 1968. He was assassinated in Memphis on April 4 after being shot by James Earl Ray.  After his death, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to represent Black courage and achievement, high moral leadership, and the ability of any American to address and overcome racial divisions.

During the less than 13 years of Dr. King, Jr.’s leadership of the modern American Civil Rights Movement, from December 1955 until April 4, 1968, African Americans achieved more genuine progress toward racial equality in America than the previous 350 years had produced.


The King

The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
edited by Clayborne Carson
Warner Books, copyright 1998
ISBN 0-446-67650-0

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