Celebrating the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 23, 2015

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr., (January 15,
1929 – April 4, 1968) was born Michael
Luther King, Jr., but later had his name
changed to Martin. His grandfather began
the family’s long tenure as pastor of the
Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, serving
from 1914 to 1931; his father served
from 1931 until his death in 1984, and
from 1960 until his death Martin acted as
co-pastor.
Martin attended segregated public
schools in Georgia, graduating from high
school at the age of fifteen; he received
the B.A. degree in 1948 from Morehouse
College, a distinguished Negro institution
in Atlanta from which both his father and
grandfather graduated. After three years
of theological study at Crozer Theological
Seminary in Pennsylvania where he was
elected president of a predominantly white
senior class, he was awarded his Bachelor’s
in Divinity in 1951. With a fellowship won
at Crozer, he enrolled in graduate studies
at Boston University, completing his residence
for the doctorate in 1953 and receiving
the degree in 1955. In Boston he
met and married Coretta Scott, a young
woman of uncommon intellectual and
artistic attainments. Two sons and two
daughters were born into the family.
In 1954, Martin Luther King accepted
the pastorate of the Dexter Avenue Baptist
Church in Montgomery, AL.
Always a strong worker for civil rights
for members of his race, King was, by this
time, a member of the executive committee
of the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People, the
leading organization of its kind in the nation.
He was ready, then early in December
1955, to accept the leadership of the first
great Negro nonviolent demonstration of
contemporary times in the United States,
the bus boycott described by Gunnar Jahn
in his presentation speech in honor of the
Nobel Peace Prize laureate. The boycott
lasted 382 days. On December 21, 1956,
after the Supreme Court of the United
States had declared unconstitutional the
laws requiring segregation on buses, Negroes
and whites rode the buses as equals.
During these days of boycott, King was
arrested, his home was bombed, he was
subjected to personal abuse, but at the
same time he emerged as a Negro leader
of the first rank.
In 1957 he was elected president of the
Southern Christian Leadership Conference,
an organization formed to provide
new leadership for the then burgeoning
civil rights movement. The ideals for this
organization he took from Christianity;
its operational techniques from Gandhi.
In the eleven-year period between 1957
and 1968, King traveled over six million
miles and spoke over twenty-five hundred
times, appearing wherever there was injustice,
protest, and action; and meanwhile
he wrote five books as well as numerous
articles. In these years, he led a massive
protest in Birmingham, AL, that caught
the attention of the entire world, providing
what he called a coalition of conscience
and inspiring his “Letter from a
Birmingham Jail,” a manifesto of the Negro
revolution. He planned the drives in
Alabama for the registration of Negroes
as voters; he directed the peaceful march
on Washington, D.C., of 250,000 people
to whom he delivered his address, “l Have
a Dream;” he conferred with President
John F. Kennedy and campaigned for
President Lyndon B. Johnson; he was arrested
upwards of twenty times and assaulted
at least four times; he was awarded
five honorary degrees; was named Man of
the Year by Time magazine in 1963; and
became not only the symbolic leader of
American blacks but also a world figure.
At the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther
King, Jr., was the youngest man to have
received the Nobel Peace Prize. When
notified of his selection, he announced
that he would turn over the prize money
of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil
rights movement.
On the evening of April 4, 1968, while
standing on the balcony of his motel room
in Memphis, TN, where he was to lead a
protest march in sympathy with striking
garbage workers of that city, he was assassinated.