MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: A BIOGRAPHY
Born January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, to an African-American Baptist minister and his wife, Martin Luther King, Jr. lived to be one of the greatest American civil rights activists that ever lived. Martin Luther King, Sr. was a pastor at a large Atlantic Church- Ebenezer Baptist- which he founded. Along with Martin Luther King, Jr.'s mother, Alberta Williams King, his father taught him the values of religion, nonviolence and equality. Martin Luther King, Jr. was ordained as a Baptist minister at age 18. At 15, he entered Morehouse college and graduated with a bachelor's degree in sociology in 1948. After graduating from Crozer Theological Seminary, in Pennsylvania, in 195 1, he attended Boston University and earned a doctoral degree in systematic theology, in 1955.
Martin Luther King, Jr. married Coretta Scott on June 18, 1953 in Marion, Alabama. In 1954Y he accepted a position as pastor in Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, about the same time as the Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka trial was taking place. In 1955, he was awarded a Ph.D. from Boston University, and had his first child, Yolanda Denise, born on November 17. On December 5, he helped to begin the Montgomery Bus Boycott (which lasted over a year), became president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, and assumed leadership of the boycott. On January 30, 1956, his home was bombed. Also that year, he was indicted along with 24 other ministers and more than lOO blacks, accused of conspiring to prevent the Montgomery Bus Company from operation and business. Eventually, though, that same year on December 21, whites and blacks rode together on Montgomery buses for the first time. The Boycott made King a national figure.
In Atlanta on January 9 and 10, 1957, he helped form the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference). He was elected as president on February 14. Along with Roy Wilkens of the NAACP and A. Philip Randolph of the AFL-CIO, in 1958, King met with President Eisenhower. That same year, he was charged with loitering, which was later changed to "failure to obey an officer." King was stabbed by Izola Curry while autographing his book in a Harlem department store a few days later.
In 1959, King departed with his wife for India to study Gandhi's teachings of non-violence in early February. King met with Senator John F. Kennedy on June 24, 1960 to discuss racial concerns. By October, he was arrested once again, this time for violating probation. On January30, 1961, King had his third child, named Dexter Scott. Almost a year later, on December 15, he helped to desegregate public facilities, and was arrested the next day, charged with obstructing sidewalks and parading without a permit. On October 16, 1962, King met with President Kennedy at the White House to, once again, discuss racial issues. King's fourth child was born on March 28, 1963 and her name was Bernice Albertine. On April 12, he explained the need for non-violent civil disobedience in his famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail." By early May, he encouraged school children to join his protests. On August 28, 1963, King gave his most famous "I Have a Dream" speech and led the March on Washington.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in December of 1964, the same year that witnesses signed on the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In 1965, the year that Malcolm X was assassinated, Martin Luther King led the march from Selma to the Alabama State Capitol, Montgomery, fifty miles away, along with 3,000 protestors. In 1966, King met with Elijah Muhammad in Chicago, and drove to make Chicago end discrimination in housing, schools and employment. He was assaulted with stones as he led marchers through Chicago's southwest side on August 5. In 1967, a federal judge ordered schools in Washington, D.C. to end de facto segregation by the fall semester. King announced the inception of the Poor People's Campaign later that year, on November 27.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorrain Hotel in Memphis on April 4, 1968 by James Earl Ray. He died at St. Joseph's Hospital of a gun shot wound to the neck. On April 7, the President Lyndon Johnson declared a national day of mourning for King. (His birthday is now observed on the third Monday of January). His funeral was held at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on April 9, 1968.
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