Martin Luther King Jr. was a minister in the Baptist Church and from the mid-1950’s leader of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States of America. In his role as leader of the Civil Rights Movement he advocated the use of non-violent protest to advance the aims of the movement.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia on January 15th 1929, Martin Luther King graduated from high school at the age of 15. He was awarded a BA degree in Sociology from Morehouse College, Atlanta in 1948. In 1951 he was awarded a BD (Bachelor of Divinity) from the Crozer Theological Seminary. From there he enrolled in Graduate studies at Boston University where he received his PhD in 1955. In that year at the age of 25 King was appointed pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church of Montgomery, Alabama.
When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, King led a citywide bus boycott. The boycott lasted 382 days before the law which mandated segregated public transportation was lifted. In 1957 he helped to found, and served as first president of, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to lead the struggle for racial equality. He went on to lead the struggle for equality in places such as Albany, Georgia and Birmingham Alabama. He was one of the organisers of the March on Washington in 1963 where he established his reputation as an orator when he delivered his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.
In 1964 the Civil Rights Act was passed enforcing desegregation and outlawing discrimination. In the same year Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded The Nobel Peace Prize. During the 1960’s King continued to fight discrimination and broadened his campaign to address issues such as poverty and the Vietnam War. On April 3rd 1968 he went to Memphis Tennessee where he delivered a speech in support of striking sanitation workers. The day after the rally he was shot and killed by a sniper called James Earl Ray while standing on the balcony outside his room at the Lorraine Motel. His death led to widespread riots and demonstrations.
Martin Luther King delivered his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC in the year 1963 On This Day.
Martin Luther King, Jr. – Florida by State Library and Archives of Florida on 1967-01-01 00:00:00
Martin Luther King speech at Civil Rights March in Washington DC
Photo by The U.S. National Archives