Civil Rights Leader - 1929 to 1968
| On an early Spring
evening on April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel room
in Memphis, Tennessee, Martin Luther King was assassinated. He was
to have lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers
of that city.
King was raised in a southern
culture that denied black people their equal rights. He was indeed
the right man to take a stand against racial inequality because, instead
of espousing violence and retribution, this Baptist pastor chose to non-violence
and the power of preaching to convince a generation.
| King's grandfather began
the family's string of pastors at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta,
Georgia, serving there from 1914 to 1931. His father followed and,
from 1960 until his death, Martin Luther served as the co-pastor of the
Having experienced only segregated
schools thorughout his education, he graduated from high school at the
age of fifteen. He received the B. A. degree in 1948 from a distinguished
Negro institution of Atlanta, Morehouse College. His father
and grandfather had been graduated from the same college. His formal
education continued at the Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania
where he was elected president of a predominantly white senior class.
After three years, he was awarded with a bachelor's degree in 1951.
He then enrolled in graduate studies at Boston University where he completed
his residence for the doctorate in 1953 and received the degree in 1955.
King met and married Coretta
Scott, while in Boston. She was a young woman of uncommon intellectual
and artistic attainments. Two sons and two daughters were born into the
Now a member of the
executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People, King accepted the pastorate of the Dexter Avenue Baptist
Church in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1954. The following year, he led
a nonviolent demonstration during the bus boycott that started in early
December. It lasted 382 days. As a result, the United States
Supreme Court ruled that requiring segregation on buses was unconstitutional.
On December 21, 1956, all races were able to ride busses as equals.
However, during the boycott, Martin Luther King had been arrested, his
home was bombed, and he was peronally abused. Still, he refused to
retaliate, thus, arising out of the boycott as a highly publisized and
respected leader of the equal rights movement.
In 1957 he was elected president
of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. This organization
was formed to provide fresh new leadership to the growing civil rights
movement. King carried over the ideals of his Biblical Christian
beliefs which led him to a nonviolent appraoch to reaching the goals of
By 1968, he had traveled
over six million miles and delivered over twenty-five hundred addresses,
appearing wherever there was injustice, protest, and action. During that
same time, he wrote five books as well as numerous articles. He also
led a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama, that caught the attention
of the entire world. He also planned the drives in Alabama for the
registration of Negroes as voters. His defining moment was when he
directed the peaceful march on Washington, D.C. 250,000 people listened
as he delivered his address, "l Have a Dream." His twenty arrests
and four assaults upon his life did not disaude him from his calling.
He was awarded five honorary degrees, was named "Man of the Year" in 1963
by Time magazine, and became both the symbolic leader of American blacks
and 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
His assasination killed him
but it did not kill his dream.