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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
This date marks the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1929. He was an African American minister and activist.
From Atlanta, the eldest son of a Baptist minister, King entered Morehouse College at 15. He graduated with a degree in sociology in 1948, and went on to Boston University earning a doctoral degree in systematic theology. 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 president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, which directed the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
In 1957, King helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in a series of protest campaigns that gained national attention. King's 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech expressed the hopes of the civil rights movement in oratory as moving as any address in American history. His speech, following years of demonstrations, created the political momentum with others that resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. King was awarded the 1964 Nobel Prize for peace. Throughout 1966 and 1967, King increasingly turned the focus of his civil rights activism throughout the country to 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 his death, 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.
The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
edited by Clayborne Carson
Warner Books, copyright 1998