Martin Luther King

Baptist Minister and social activist

An icon in American history, one of the most important figures of the 20th century, a prominent leader in civil rights movements for African-Americans.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. a Baptist minister and activist was one of the most important voice of the American civil rights movement since the mid-1950s. He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott. King’s efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, and established a reputation as one of the great orators in American history.

He was instrumental in ending the legal segregation of African-American citizens in the South as well as in the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. By the time of his death in 1968, he had refocused his efforts on ending poverty and stopping the Vietnam War.

On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, an event that sent shock waves reverberating around the world. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and Congressional Gold Medal in 2004. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established as a U.S. federal holiday in 1986.

Name:   Martin  Luther King Jr
Born:   15 January 1929
Star Sign: Capricorn
Died:   4 April 1968
Birthplace: Atlanta
Country: Georgia (GA) United States
DetailsOther Names
Michael King Jr
Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr.
Alberta Williams King
In 18 June, 1983, Dr. King and Coretta Scott were married at the Scott home near Marion, Alabama.
Yolanda Denise (b. 1955); Martin Luther King III (b. 1957); Dexter Scott (b. 1961); and Bernice Albertine (b. 1963).

Young Martin
Martin Luther King Jr, was born Michael King Jr on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta. He was the middle child of Rev. Michael King Sr. and Alberta Williams King. The family names was changed to 'Martin' and 'Luther' was added as a tribute to German professor of theology, Martin Luther in the Protestant Reformation.

His religious family was from a lineage of preachers at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Martin and his two siblings attended segregated public schools and at the age of 15, he graduated from high school.

Marriage and family
In 1948, Martin Luther King Jr. earned a sociology degree from Morehouse College then attended the liberal Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. In 1951, he graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity degree, and completed his residence for doctorate in 1953, at Boston University two years later.

While in Boston Dr. King met Coretta Scott, an aspiring singer and musician. In 1953, the couple wed. The following year Dr. King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. They had four children - two sons and two daughters.

Montgomery Bus Boycott
On December 1, 1955, after a long day at work, 42-year-old Rosa Parks an African American woman boards a city bus to go home. Rosa refused to yield her seat to a white man on a Montgomery bus. For this she was arrested and fined.

When Rosa Parks was arrested, E.D. Nixon, head of the local NAACP met with King and other local civil rights leaders to plan a citywide bus boycott. They formed the Montgomery Improvement Association(MIA) and Dr. King became its president. The MIA was instrumental in guiding the Montgomery bus boycott, a successful campaign that focused national attention on racial segregation in the South and catapulted King into the national spotlight.

Unconstitutional Laws Lifted
On December 21, 1956, the Supreme Court of the United States declared that the laws requiring segregation on buses was unconstitutional. During these days of boycott, Dr. King was arrested, his home was bombed, and was subjected to personal abuse. But at the same time he emerged as a African American leader and had entered the national spotlight as an inspirational proponent of organized, nonviolent resistance.

Southern Christian Leadership Conference
In 1957, Dr. King, Ralph Abernathy, Fred Shuttlesworth, Joseph Lowery, and other civil rights activists founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) - a group committed to achieving full equality for African Americans through nonviolence. Its motto was 'Not one hair of one head of one person should be harmed'. Dr. King would remain at the helm of this influential organization until his death.

Between 1957 and 1968, Dr. King traveled over six million miles, speaking and appearing wherever there was injustice, protest, and action. He also wrote five books as well as numerous articles.

Alabama Protest
He led a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama that caught the attention of the entire world. He provided a coalition of conscience which inspired his 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail' - a manifesto of the Negro revolution. He also planned the drives in Alabama for the registration of Negroes as voters.

Speech "I have a Dream.."
On August 28, 1963, Dr. King organized a peaceful, political rally known as the 'March on Washington' for Jobs and Freedom. The march was an unprecedented success. About 250,000 black and white Americans shared a joyous day of speeches, songs, and prayers led by a celebrated array of clergymen, civil rights leaders, politicians, and entertainers.

On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Luther King's delivered his famous speech, 'I have a dream'. Five months after the historic peaceful protest, President Johnson signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Symbolic Leader
Dr. King was arrested over twenty times and assaulted at least four times. Later, he was awarded five honorary degrees and named 'Man of the Year' by Time magazine in 1963. He became not only the symbolic leader of American blacks but also a world figure. At aged 32, Dr Martin King Jr., received the Nobel Peace Prize. He donated his prize money to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.

By 1968, the years of demonstrations and confrontations were beginning to wear on Martin Luther King Jr. He had grown tired of marches, going to jail, and living under the constant threat of death.

Assassination and Legacy
On the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Lorraine Motel, Memphis, Tennessee, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. His thirteen years of nonviolent leadership ended abruptly. The shooter, was caught and sentenced.

But Dr. King's assassination sparked riots and demonstrations in more than 100 cities across the United States. The campaign for a federal holiday in King’s honour began shortly after his assassination. Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, and was observed for the first time in 1986. It was officially observed in all fifty states for the first time in 2006.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr., was the second child born of Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King who raised their children in a loving environment. Dr. King had two siblings - older sister, Willie Christine King and younger brother, Alfred Daniel Williams King. On June 18, he married Coretta Scott and they had four children.

Dr. King had a role in the premiere of 'Gone with the Wind', the classic film chronicling the Civil War. 10-year-old Dr. King sang with his father’s church choir at the Atlanta gala premiere of the movie in 1939.

Dr. King was stabbed with a letter opener at one of his book signings. His life was saved by the actions of a pair of police, one black and one white, and surgeons, also one black and one white.

Dr. King and his wife spent their wedding night together at a “black-owned” funeral home because the newlyweds were rejected by a “whites-only” hotel.

Dr. King apparently improvised parts of the “I Have A Dream” speech and added it live when singer Mahalia Jackson prompted him to speak about the “dream” right before his speech.

Dr. King was deeply influenced by the teachings and philosophies of Mohandas Gandhi.

His mother, Alberta Williams King, was also murdered while playing the organ at church in 1974 by a 23 year old man, Marcus Wayne Chenault, who believed “all Christians are my enemies.”

Martin Luther King Jr. is the only native born United States citizen to have a national holiday in his honor. Two other people in American history that have a national holiday in their honor, George Washington and Christopher Columbus.

Today over 700 streets in the United States are named after Martin Luther King Jr., with one such street in almost every major city. This is not even counting the amazing number of buildings, schools, and the like named after him.

King won a Grammy in 1971 for Best Spoken Word Album for “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam,” as well as a Congressional Gold Medal and a Medal of Freedom.

King donated all of the $54,123 (about $400,000 today) he received for his Nobel Peace Prize to the Civil Rights movement.

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."

"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."

"No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they’d die for."

"Only in the darkness can you see the stars."

"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."

"Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education."

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."


On April 4th, 1968, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. King’s body was returned to his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. A crowd of 300,000 and high-level leaders attended his funeral on April 9.

The service at Ebenezer Baptist Church was nationally televised, as were these other events. A funeral procession transported King's body for 3.5 miles through the streets of Atlanta, followed by more than 100,000 mourners.

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