Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

February 9, 2021 | Black History Month, G-BLOG

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Photo Credit: Stephen F. Somerstein—Getty Images

On January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Ga, Michael Luther King Jr. was born. He later changed his first name to Martin. 

Dr. King graduated at the top of his class at Morehouse College and earned his B.A. degree in 1948. 

He received his B.D. degree in 1951 from Crozer Theological Seminary and earned his Ph.D. in systematic theology from Boston University in 1955.  

Dr. King was a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and helped organize the Montgomery, Ala bus boycott. The boycott is regarded as the first large-scale demonstration against segregation in the U.S.  

Rosa Parks triggered the boycott after she was arrested and fined for refusing to give up her seat at the front of a bus. 

The boycott began on Dec. 5, 1955, the day Parks was to appear in municipal court.

It ended on Dec. 20, 1956, when the U.S. Supreme Court found that Montgomery’s segregated buses violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

The bus boycott put Dr. King into the spotlight and he joined other civil rights activists to create the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957. 

Dr. King was elected president. 

He promoted the ideals of civil disobedience, as used by Mahatma Gandhi in the fight for Indian Independence, as the best way to fight for civil rights in the U.S. 

In April 1963, Dr. King, the leaders of the SCLC and other civil rights groups organized sit-ins, pickets and marches in Birmingham, Ala. with the goal of ending municipal segregation laws. 

Dr. King was arrested on April 12, 1963 for violating a court injunction and transported to the Birmingham city jail. 

His Letter from Birmingham Jail dated April 16, 1963, became a key document of the civil rights movement. 

I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

Another key moment in U.S. civil rights history was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on Aug. 28, 1963. 

Dr. King’s I have a Dream Speech is considered one of the greatest speeches of the 20th century. Over 250,000 people attended the march, and Dr. King’s speech was broadcast on U.S. network television. 

Another key activity in Dr. King’s life was the Selma to Montgomery march of March 7, 1965. Dr. King and hundreds of activists, walking in support of voting rights for Blacks, were attacked by Alabama State Troopers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. 

The images of the courageous but beaten marchers galvanized support for their cause and were key in the eventual passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  

On April 4, 1968, Dr. King was shot as he stood on the balcony outside his motel room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. He was in the city to support a sanitation workers’ strike. 

He was pronounced dead at a Memphis hospital. He was 39 years old. 

Over his years of civil disobedience and peaceful protests, Dr. King was arrested over twenty times and assaulted at least four times. 

He was named Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1963 and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. 

SOURCES: ENCYCLOPEDIAOFALABAMA.ORG, HISTORY.COM, MLK50.CIVILRIGHTSMUSEUM.ORG, NAACP.ORG, NOBELPRIZE.ORG

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