Historical Figure-MLK Jr.

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Martin Luther King Jr.

Born: Born as Michael King Jr. on January 15th, 1929 in Atlanta Georgia

Parents: Reverend Martin Luther King Sr. and Alberta Williams King

Wife: Coretta Scott King

Children: Yolanda, Dexter Bernice, Martin

Death: Assassination on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee

Early Years

King grew up in Atlanta's Sweet Auburn neighborhood, which at the time was home to some of the most successful and well known African Americans in the country. King was extremely intelligent in the segregated schools he attended. At age 15, he was admitted into the Morehouse College. He unintentionally followed his father's footsteps by joining the ministry. After graduating from Morehouse in 1948, he entered the Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. There he earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree, a prestigious fellowship, and was even elected president of his mostly white senior class. Afterwards, MLK Jr. enrolled in Boston University where he received his doctorate in systematic theology. While he was in Boston, he met his wife, Coretta. They became married in 1953 and settled down in Montgomery, Alabama. There, King became the pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.


After King had lived in highly segregated Montgomery for less than a year, the city became the center for the struggle of civil rights in America. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery and was arrested. Activists then formed the bus boycott which lasted 381 days. This put pressure on the transit system and downtown businesses. Martin Luther King Jr. was chosen as the protest's leader and official spokesman. Finally in November 1956, MLK, had been recognized nationally as a figure leading towards organized, and nonviolent resistance to segregation. Unfortunately due to this publicity, he was targeted by white supremacists who firebombed his house. Due to the boycott's success earlier, King and other civil rights activists formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference also known as the SCLC. This group is committed to gaining equal rights for African Americans through nonviolence.

"Not one hair of one head of one person should be harmed."

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)

Martin Luther King Jr., as head of the SCLC, traveled across the country and even world to give lectures on nonviolent protest and civil rights alongside meeting with political and religious figures. The most influencing on King was Gandhi who he met with Gandhi's family and followers during a month long trip to India in 1959. Gandhi was "the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change." In 1960, King moved to Atlanta, his home city, and became the co-pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church. Luckily this change in location did not alter the path of the SCLC at all. Their philosophy of nonviolence protest was challenged during the Birmingham campaign of 1963. King was arrested for his involvement and on April 12th, King wrote "Letter From Birmingham Jail". This was a defense against civil disobedience addressed to the white men who challenged his tactics.

March On Washington

Martin Luther King Jr. organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. This rally was supposed to be a peaceful march designed to shed light on the problems African Americans faced. Over 200,000 people participated in what became a huge landmark in the fight for Civil Rights. During this March, King gave his famous "I Have A Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. This march and his speech led to his awards of Man of the Year by TIME magazine and a Nobel Peace Prize, making him the youngest to ever receive one.


In the Spring of 1965, King's publicity drew international attention to the violence in Selma where the SCLC and SNCC had planned a voter registration campaign. The brutality in Selma was seen across the nation on television and outraged Americans. It inspired people and from across the country to take part in a march to Montgomery which King led and was supported by President Lyndon B. Johnson who supported the march with federal troops to make sure no violence erupted. That August, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act which basically reinforced the 15th amendment.

The Final Years of MLK

As more black leaders rose up such as Stokely Carmichael, Martin Luther King opened up his scope of activism to focus on issues such as the Vietnam War and poverty. In 1967, King and SCLC supporters began the program known as the Poor People's Campaign. On April 4, 1968, King was shot on the balcony of a motel in Memphis. After his death, hundreds of riots spread across the country and the President declared a day of national mourning.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating the federal holiday of Martin Luther King Jr. Day to be celebrated on the third Monday of January. It was first celebrated in the year of 1986.

Famous Quote

"The time is always right to do what is right"

This quote means that it will always be the right time to do what is just in the world. In this case, MLK fought for civil rights for African Americans even though he faced many hardships along the way such as his house being bombed, and Selma. Although the time was not always optimal for him, he continued along his path of freedom.


If Martin Luther King Jr. did what he did in the time the Civil War was going on, he would have been revolutionary. He would have also been the leading activist for the Union against slavery. He could have been alongside Frederick Douglas. He would have influenced thousands to join the fight against slavery and probably saved countless lives. The impact of his success would have stuck with everyone as they came into the time period King actually lived in. His ideals would have changed America even earlier than they had.
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Secondary Source: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1964/king-bio.html

The Nobel Foundation created this page commemorating King and his achievements leading up to his receiving of the Nobel Peace prize. This biography starts with King's earlier years and basically goes through his life like a timeline. Considering all of the achievements King has had and the amount of bravery he had facing segregation, Martin Luther King Jr. earned his award. The author of this biography focuses on King's struggles as an activist. For example, the author talks about the struggles at Birmingham and the jail time King faced due to his involvement in the Campaign of 1963. The Nobel Foundation thoroughly examined King's life, making the reader understand what an influence King was to the nation.

Martin Luther King - I Have A Dream Speech - August 28, 1963

Works Cited

Carson, Clayborne. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: Time Warner, 1998. Print.

"Martin Luther King Jr." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2015.

Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.

"Martin Luther King Jr." History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.