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Photo of Martin Luther King Jr. being arrestedDouble image photograph of Martin Luther King Jr.MLK at March on Washington

Martin Luther King Jr. 1929 -1968

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Stanford Univ.


Martin Luther King Jr. waving from the steps of the Lincoln MemorialMany historic moments in the civil rights struggle have been used to identify Martin Luther King, Jr. — prime mover of the Montgomery bus boycott, keynote speaker at the March on Washington, and youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate. But in retrospect, single events are less important than the fact that King, and his policy of nonviolent protest, was the dominant force in the civil rights movement during its decade of greatest achievement, from 1955 to 1968.

King was born Martin Luther King in Atlanta on Jan. 15, 1929 — one of the three children of Martin Luther King Sr., pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, and Alberta (Williams) King, a former schoolteacher. After going to local grammar and high schools, King enrolled in Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1944. After receiving his bachelor's degree in 1948, King attended Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pa., winning the Plafker Award as the outstanding student of the graduating class, and the J. Lewis Crozer Fellowship as well. King completed the coursework for his doctorate in 1953, and was granted the degree two years later upon completion of his dissertation.

He married Coretta Scott in 1953. He then returned South to become pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala. Here, he made his first mark on the civil-rights movement, by mobilizing the black community during a 382-day boycott of the city's bus lines. King overcame arrest and other violent harassment, including the bombing of his home. Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court declared bus segregation unconstitutional. His long and distinguished career of non-violent protest was an inspiration to the nation and the world.

King was assassinated on April 4th, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee just before he was engaged to speak at a rally in support of striking garbage workers. Although James Earl Ray was convicted of the shooting, he later recanted and many believe, as do members of the King family that Martin was the victim of a government (FBI) assassination plot.

(Excerpt from his famous speech delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963.)

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.”

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