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Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 – and assasinated on April 4, 1968, was an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement from 1954 through 1968. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using the tactics of nonviolence and civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs and inspired by the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi.

His Early life and Education

The high school that King attended was named after African-American educator Booker T. Washington.
King was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, to the Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King. King's legal name at birth was Michael King, and his father was also born Michael King, but the elder King changed both his and his son's names around 1934. The elder King would later state that "Michael" was a mistake by the attending physician to his son's birth, and the younger King's birth certificate was altered to read "Martin Luther King Jr." in 1957. King's parents were both African-American, and he also had Irish ancestry through his paternal great-grandfather.
King was a middle child, between an older sister, Christine King Farris, and a younger brother, A.D. King. King sang with his church choir at the 1939 Atlanta premiere of the movie Gone with the Wind, and he enjoyed singing and music. His mother was an accomplished organist and choir leader who took him to various churches to sing, and he received attention for singing "I Want to Be More and More Like Jesus". King later became a member of the junior choir in his church.
King said that his father regularly whipped him until he was fifteen; a neighbor reported hearing the elder King telling his son "he would make something of him even if he had to beat him to death." King saw his father's proud and fearless protests against segregation, such as King Sr. refusing to listen to a traffic policeman after being referred to as "boy," or stalking out of a store with his son when being told by a shoe clerk that they would have to "move to the rear" of the store to be served.
When King was a child, he befriended a white boy whose father owned a business near his family's home. When the boys were six, they started school: King had to attend a school for African Americans and the other boy went to one for whites (public schools were among the facilities segregated by state law). King lost his friend because the child's father no longer wanted the boys to play together.
King suffered from depression throughout much of his life. In his adolescent years, he initially felt resentment against whites due to the "racial humiliation" that he, his family, and his neighbors often had to endure in the segregated South. At the age of 12, shortly after his maternal grandmother died, King blamed himself and jumped out of a second-story window, but survived.
King was skeptical of many of Christianity's claims. At the age of 13, he denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus during Sunday school. From this point, he stated, "doubts began to spring forth unrelentingly." However, he later concluded that the Bible has "many profound truths which one cannot escape" and decided to enter the seminary.
Growing up in Atlanta, King attended Booker T. Washington High School. He became known for his public speaking ability and was part of the school's debate team. King became the youngest assistant manager of a newspaper delivery station for the Atlanta Journal in 1942 when he was 13. During

The high school that King attended was named after African-American educator Booker T. Washington.

The high school that King attended was named after African-American educator Booker T. Washington.

his junior year, he won first prize in an oratorical contest sponsored by the Negro Elks Club in Dublin, Georgia. Returning home to Atlanta by bus, he and his teacher were ordered by the driver to stand so that white passengers could sit down. King initially refused, but complied after his teacher told him that he would be breaking the law if he did not submit. King said that during this incident, he was "the angriest I have ever been in my life." A precocious student, he skipped both the ninth and the twelfth grades of high school.
During King's junior year in high school, Morehouse College, a respected historically black college, announced that it would accept any high school juniors who could pass its entrance exam. At that time, many students had abandoned further studies to enlist in World War II. Due to this, Morehouse was eager to fill its classrooms. At the age of 15, King passed the exam and entered Morehouse. The summer before his last year at Morehouse, in 1947, the 18-year-old King chose to enter the ministry. He had concluded that the church offered the most assuring way to answer "an inner urge to serve humanity." King's "inner urge" had begun developing, and he made peace with the Baptist Church, as he believed he would be a "rational" minister with sermons that were "a respectful force for ideas, even social protest."
In 1948, he graduated from Morehouse with a B.A. in sociology and enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, from which he graduated with a B.Div. degree in 1951. King's father fully supported his decision to continue his education.
While attending Crozer, King was joined by Walter McCall, a former classmate at Morehouse. At Crozer, King was elected president of the student body. The African-American students of Crozer for the most part conducted their social activity on Edwards Street. King became fond of the street because a classmate had an aunt who prepared collard greens for them, which they both relished.
King once reproved another student for keeping beer in his room, saying they had shared responsibility as African Americans to bear "the burdens of the Negro race." For a time, he was interested in Walter Rauschenbusch's "social gospel." In his third year at Morehouse, King became romantically involved with the white daughter of an immigrant German woman who worked as a cook in the cafeteria. The daughter had been involved with a professor prior to her relationship with King. King planned to marry her, but friends advised against it, saying that an interracial marriage would provoke animosity from both blacks and whites, potentially damaging his chances of ever pastoring a church in the South. King tearfully told a friend that he could not endure his mother's pain over the marriage and broke the relationship off six months later. He continued to have lingering feelings toward the women he left; one friend was quoted as saying, "He never recovered."
King married Coretta Scott on June 18, 1953, on the lawn of her parents' house in her hometown of Heiberger, Alabama. They became the parents of four children: Yolanda King (1955–2007), Martin Luther King III (b. 1957), Dexter Scott King (b. 1961), and Bernice King (b. 1963). During their marriage, King limited Coretta's role in the civil rights movement, expecting her to be a housewife and mother. At age 25 in 1954, King was called as pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.

Religion

King at the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. As a Christian minister, King's main influence was Jesus Christ and the Christian gospels, which he would almost always quote in his religious meetings, speeches at church, and in public discourses. King's faith was strongly based in Jesus' commandment of loving your neighbor as yourself, loving God above all, and loving your enemies, praying for them and blessing them. His nonviolent thought was also based in the injunction to turn the other cheek in the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus' teaching of putting the sword back into its place (Matthew 26:52). In his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, King urged action consistent with what he describes as Jesus' "extremist" love, and also quoted numerous other Christian pacifist authors, which was very usual for him. In another sermon, he stated:

Before I was a civil rights leader, I was a preacher of the Gospel. This was my first calling and it still remains my greatest commitment. You know, actually all that I do in civil rights I do because I consider it a part of my ministry. I have no other ambitions in life but to achieve excellence in the Christian ministry. I don't plan to run for any political office. I don't plan to do anything but remain a preacher. And what I'm doing in this struggle, along with many others, grows out of my feeling that the preacher must be concerned about the whole man.


In his speech "I've Been to the Mountaintop", he stated that he just wanted to do God's will.

As a Christian minister, King's main influence was Jesus Christ and the Christian gospels, which he would almost always quote in his religious meetings, speeches at church, and in public discourses. King's faith was strongly based in Jesus' commandment of loving your neighbor as yourself, loving God above all, and loving your enemies, praying for them and blessing them. His nonviolent thought was also based in the injunction to turn the other cheek in the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus' teaching of putting the sword back into its place (Matthew 26:52). In his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, King urged action consistent with what he describes as Jesus' "extremist" love, and also quoted numerous other Christian pacifist authors, which was very usual for him.

In another sermon, he said:

Before I was a civil rights leader, I was a preacher of the Gospel. This was my first calling and it still remains my greatest commitment. You know, actually all that I do in civil rights I do because I consider it a part of my ministry. I have no other ambitions in life but to achieve excellence in the Christian ministry. I don't plan to run for any political office. I don't plan to do anything but remain a preacher. And what I'm doing in this struggle, along with many others, grows out of my feeling that the preacher must be concerned about the whole man.

Nonviolence

A close-up of Rustin

King worked alongside Quakers

such as Bayard Rustin to develop non-violent tactics.
Veteran African-American civil rights activist Bayard Rustin was King's first regular advisor on nonviolence. King was also advised by the white activists Harris Wofford and Glenn Smiley. Rustin and Smiley came from the Christian pacifist tradition, and Wofford and Rustin both studied Gandhi's teachings. Rustin had applied nonviolence with the Journey of Reconciliation campaign in the 1940s, and Wofford had been promoting Gandhism to Southern blacks since the early 1950s. King had initially known little about Gandhi and rarely used the term "nonviolence" during his early years of activism in the early 1950s. King initially believed in and practiced self-defense, even obtaining guns in his household as a means of defense against possible attackers. The pacifists guided King by showing him the alternative of nonviolent resistance, arguing that this would be a better means to accomplish his goals of civil rights than self-defense. King then vowed to no longer personally use arms.
In the aftermath of the boycott, King wrote Stride Toward Freedom, which included the chapter Pilgrimage to Nonviolence. King outlined his understanding of nonviolence, which seeks to win an opponent to friendship, rather than to humiliate or defeat him. The chapter draws from an address by Wofford, with Rustin and Stanley Levison also providing guidance and ghostwriting.
King was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and his success with nonviolent activism, and as a theology student, King described Gandhi as being one of the "individuals who greatly reveal the working of the Spirit of God". King had "for a long time ... wanted to take a trip to India." With assistance from Harris Wofford, the American Friends Service Committee, and other supporters, he was able to fund the journey in April 1959. The trip to India affected King, deepening his understanding of nonviolent resistance and his commitment to America's struggle for civil rights. In a radio address made during his final evening in India, King reflected, "Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity."
King's admiration of Gandhi's nonviolence did not diminish in later years. He went so far as to hold up his example when receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, hailing the "successful precedent" of using nonviolence "in a magnificent way by Mohandas K. Gandhi to challenge the might of the British Empire ... He struggled only with the weapons of truth, soul force, non-injury and courage."
Another influence for King's nonviolent method was Henry David Thoreau's essay On Civil Disobedience and its theme of refusing to cooperate with an evil system. He also was greatly influenced by the works of Protestant theologians Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich, and said that Walter Rauschenbusch's Christianity and the Social Crisis left an "indelible imprint" on his thinking by giving him a theological grounding for his social concerns. King was moved by Rauschenbusch's vision of Christians spreading social unrest in "perpetual but friendly conflict" with the state, simultaneously critiquing it and calling it to act as an instrument of justice. He was apparently unaware of the American tradition of Christian pacifism exemplified by Adin Ballou and William Lloyd Garrison King frequently referred to Jesus' Sermon on the Mount as central for his work. King also sometimes used the concept of "agape" (brotherly Christian love). However, after 1960, he ceased employing it in his writings.
Even after renouncing his personal use of guns, King had a complex relationship with the phenomenon of self-defense in the movement. He publicly discouraged it as a widespread practice, but acknowledged that it was sometimes necessary. Throughout his career King was frequently protected by other civil rights activists who carried arms, such as Colonel Stone Johnson, Robert Hayling, and the Deacons for Defense and Justice.

Montgomery Bus Boycott

King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott

Rosa Parks on a Montgomery bus on December 21, 1956, the day Montgomery's public transportation system was legally integrated. Behind Parks is Nicholas C. Chriss, a UPI reporter covering the event.

"Rosa Parks on a Montgomery bus on December 21, 1956, the day Montgomery's public transportation system was legally integrated. Behind Parks is Nicholas C. Chriss, a UPI reporter covering the event.""Rosa Parks on a Montgomery bus on December 21, 1956, the day Montgomery's public transportation system was legally integrated. Behind Parks is Nicholas C. Chriss, a UPI reporter covering the event."

and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, serving as its first president. With the SCLC, he led an unsuccessful 1962 struggle against segregation in Albany, Georgia, and helped organize the nonviolent 1963 protests in Birmingham, Alabama. He also helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom

The Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, or Prayer Pilgrimage to Washington, was a 1957 demonstration in Washington, D.C., an early event in the Civil Rights Movement, and the occasion for Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Give Us the Ballot" speech. The demonstration was planned at the occasion of the third anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education, a landmark Supreme Court decision against segregation in public schools. The event organizers urged the government to abide by that decision, as the process of desegregation was being obstructed at local and state levels.
The three-hour demonstration took place in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Mahalia Jackson and Harry Belafonte participated in the event. Paul Robeson and his wife Eslanda attended, but were largely ignored. Among the speakers were Wilkins, Mordecai Johnson, and King. King was the last speaker and it was the first time that he addressed a national audience. It was his first Lincoln Memorial speech and it set the goal and agenda for voting rights as an important part of the civil rights struggle against a reluctant administration. About 25,000 demonstrators attended the event to pray and voice their opinion. At the time, the event was the largest demonstration ever organized for civil rights.

"Give Us the Ballot"

Give Us the Ballot King's oratory at the event is named the "Give Us the Ballot" speech, as its key section uses this demand as a litany, followed by a listing of changes that would result by African Americans regaining voting rights:

Give us the ballot and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights... Give us the ballot and we will no longer plead to the federal government for passage of an anti-lynching law... Give us the ballot and we will fill our legislative halls with men of good will... Give us the ballot and we will place judges on the benches of the South who will do justly and love mercy... Give us the ballot and we will quietly and nonviolently, without rancor or bitterness, implement the Supreme Court's decision of May 17, 1954.

It is one of King's major speeches.
The march was organized by A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, and Ella Baker. It was supported by the NAACP and the recently founded Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. had asked the planners not to embarrass the Eisenhower administration, thus the event was organized as a prayer commemoration. A call for the demonstration was issued on April 5, 1957, by Randolph, Martin Luther King Jr., and Roy Wilkins.
Prayer Pilgrimage 1st Youth March 2nd Youth March March on Washington Poor People's Campaign Youth March for Integrated Schools was the second of two Youth Marches that rallied in Washington, D.C. The second march occurred on April 18, 1959 at the National Sylvan Theater and was attended by an estimated 26,000 individuals. The march was a follow-up to the first Youth March to demonstrate support for ongoing efforts to end racially segregated schools in the United States. Speeches were delivered by Martin Luther King Jr., A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, and Charles S. Zimmerman.

Youth March for Integrated Schools

Youth March for Integrated Schools was the first of two Youth Marches that rallied in Washington, D.C. The first march occurred on October 25, 1958 at the Lincoln Memorial and was attended by an estimated 10,000 individuals. The aim of the march was to demonstrate support for ongoing efforts to end racially segregated schools in the United States. Martin Luther King Jr. was expected to speak at the event, but was recuperating from a chest stabbing inflicted by Izola Curry that left him severely wounded.
Youth March for Integrated Schools (1959) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Youth March for Integrated Schools Part of the Civil Rights Movement Date: April 18, 1959 Location: National Sylvan Theater in Washington, D.C. Caused by: Brown v. Board of Education (1954) Massive resistance Youth March for Integrated Schools (1958) Resulted in Estimated: 26,000 people participate v t e Civil Rights Movement in Washington D.C. Prayer Pilgrimage 1st Youth March 2nd Youth March March on Washington Poor People's Campaign Youth March for Integrated Schools was the second of two Youth Marches that rallied in Washington, D.C. The second march occurred on April 18, 1959 at the National Sylvan Theater and was attended by an estimated 26,000 individuals. The march was a follow-up to the first Youth March to demonstrate support for ongoing efforts to end racially segregated schools in the United States.[1] Speeches were delivered by Martin Luther King Jr., A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, and Charles S. Zimmerman.


On October 14, 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. In 1965, he helped to organize the Selma to Montgomery marches, and the following year he and the SCLC took the movement north to Chicago to work on segregated housing. In the final years of his life, he expanded his focus to include opposition towards poverty and the Vietnam War, alienating many of his liberal allies with a 1967 speech titled "Beyond Vietnam".

St. Augustine Movement

The St. Augustine movement was a part of the wider Civil Rights Movement in 1963–1964. It was a major event in St. Augustine's long history and had a role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

History of the St. Augustine Movement

Despite the 1954 Supreme Court act in Brown v. Board of Education, which ruled that the "separate but equal" legal status of public schools made those schools inherently unequal, St. Augustine still had only six black children admitted into white schools.[when?] The homes of two of the families of these children were burned by local segregationists, while other families were forced to move out of the county because the parents were fired from their jobs.
Dr. Robert Hayling is generally considered the "father" of the St. Augustine movement. A Tallahassee native originally, Hayling served as an Air Force officer, and then became the first black dentist in Florida to be elected to the American Dental Association. He set up business in St. Augustine in 1960 and joined the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The organization led a high-profile protest of the segregated celebration of the city's 400th anniversary in March 1963. While the campaign was successful at convincing Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson to speak before an interracial audience in St. Augustine, it had no effect on the overall Jim Crow laws. The NAACP campaign lacked a direct action component and Hayling believed that this was a major failing. Hayling founded an NAACP Youth Council that engaged in nonviolent direct action, including wade-ins at the local segregated swimming pools.
A sit-in protest at the local Woolworth's lunch counter ended in the arrest and imprisonment of 16 young black protesters and seven juveniles. Four of the children, two of whom were 16-year-old girls, were sent to "reform" school and retained for six months. These four children were JoeAnn Anderson, Audrey Nell Edwards, Willie Carl Singleton, and Samuel White, and they came to be known as "the St. Augustine Four". Their case was publicized as an egregious injustice by Jackie Robinson, the NAACP, the Pittsburgh Courier, and others. Finally, a special action of the governor and cabinet of Florida freed them in January 1964.
In addition to nonviolent direct action, the St. Augustine movement practiced armed self-defense. In spring of 1963, the NAACP aggressively lobbied for the city's federal funding to be suspended until it came into compliance with existing federal civil rights legislation and the Brown v. Board of Education decision. This led to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) stepping up its death threats against activists. In June, Dr. Hayling publicly stated, "I and the others have armed. We will shoot first and answer questions later. We are not going to die like Medgar Evers." The comment made national headlines. When Klan nightriders terrorized black neighborhoods in St. Augustine, Hayling's NAACP members often drove them off with gunfire.
In September 1963, the Ku Klux Klan staged a rally of several hundred Klansmen on the outskirts of town. They seized Robert Hayling and three other NAACP activists (Clyde Jenkins, James Jackson, and James Hauser), and beat them with fists, chains, and clubs. The four men were rescued by Florida Highway Patrol officers. St. Johns County Sheriff L. O. Davis arrested four white men for the beating and also arrested the four unarmed blacks for "assaulting" the large crowd of armed Klansmen. Charges against the Klansmen were dismissed, but Hayling was convicted of "criminal assault" against the KKK mob.

Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence

"Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence", also referred as Riverside Church speech, is an anti-Vietnam War and pro-social justice speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before he was assassinated. The major speech at Riverside Church in New York City, followed several interviews and several other public speeches in which King came out against the Vietnam War and the policies that created it. Some, like civil rights leader Ralph Bunche, the NAACP, and the editorial page writers of the Washington Post and the New York Times called the Riverside Church speech a mistake on King's part. The New York Times editorial suggested that conflating the civil rights movement with the anti-war movement was an oversimplification that did justice to neither, stating that "linking these hard, complex problems will lead not to solutions but to deeper confusion." Others, including James Bevel, King's partner and strategist in the Civil Rights Movement, called it King's most important speech. It was written by activist and historian Vincent Harding.


King delivered the speech, sponsored by the group Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam, after committing to participate in New York's April 15 1967 anti-Vietnam war march from Central Park to the United Nations, sponsored by the Spring Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam.


In 2010, PBS commentator Tavis Smiley said that the speech was the most controversial speech of King's career, and the one he "labored over the most".

March on Washington

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the March on Washington, or The Great March on Washington, was held in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, August 28, 1963. The purpose of the march was to advocate for civil and economic rights for African Americans. At the march, Martin Luther King Jr., standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech in which he called for an end to racism.
The march was organized by A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, who built an alliance of civil rights,

King gave his most famous speech, I Have a Dream, before the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
"King gave his most famous speech, I Have a Dream, before the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.""King gave his most famous speech, "I Have a Dream", before the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom."
labor, and religious organizations that came together under the banner of "jobs and freedom." Estimates of the number of participants varied from 200,000 to 300,000; the most widely cited estimate is 250,000 people. Observers estimated that 75–80% of the marchers were black. The march was one of the largest political rallies for human rights in United States history.
The march is credited with helping to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and preceded the Selma Voting Rights Movement which led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (1963)
"March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (1963)"

"March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (1963)"



"Bayard Rustin (left) and Cleveland Robinson (right), organizers of the March, on August 7, 1963"

"Bayard Rustin (left) and Cleveland Robinson (right), organizers of the March, on August 7, 1963"



"March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Joachim Prinz pictured, 1963"


Chicago open housing movement, 1966

President Lyndon B. Johnson meeting with King in the White House Cabinet Room, 1966

"President Lyndon B. Johnson meeting with King in the White House Cabinet Room, 1966"

Chicago Freedom Movement

King stood behind President Johnson as he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In 1966, after several successes in the south, King, Bevel, and others in the civil rights organizations took the movement to the North, with Chicago as their first destination. King and Ralph Abernathy, both from the middle class, moved into a building at 1550 S. Hamlin Avenue, in the slums of North Lawndale on Chicago's West Side, as an educational experience and to demonstrate their support and empathy for the poor.


The SCLC formed a coalition with CCCO, Coordinating Council of Community Organizations, an organization founded by Albert Raby, and the combined organizations' efforts were fostered under the aegis of the Chicago Freedom Movement. During that spring, several white couple/black couple tests of real estate offices uncovered racial steering: discriminatory processing of housing requests by couples who were exact matches in income, background, number of children, and other attributes. Several larger marches were planned and executed: in Bogan, Belmont Cragin, Jefferson Park, Evergreen Park (a suburb southwest of Chicago), Gage Park, Marquette Park, and others.
President Lyndon B. Johnson meeting with King in the White House Cabinet Room, 1966 King later stated and Abernathy wrote that the movement received a worse reception in Chicago than in the South. Marches, especially the one through Marquette Park on August 5, 1966, were met by thrown bottles and screaming throngs. Rioting seemed very possible. King's beliefs militated against his staging a violent event, and he negotiated an agreement with Mayor Richard J. Daley to cancel a march in order to avoid the violence that he feared would result. King was hit by a brick during one march but continued to lead marches in the face of personal danger.
When King and his allies returned to the South, they left Jesse Jackson, a seminary student who had previously joined the movement in the South, in charge of their organization. Jackson continued their struggle for civil rights by organizing the Operation Breadbasket movement that targeted chain stores that did not deal fairly with blacks.
A 1967 CIA document declassified in 2017 downplayed King's role in the "black militant situation" in Chicago, with a source stating that King “sought at least constructive, positive projects.”

Poor People's Campaign

In 1968, King was planning a national occupation of Washington, D.C., to be called the Poor People's Campaign, when he was assassinated by James Earl Ray on April 4 in Memphis, Tennessee. King's death was followed by riots in many U.S. cities. Ray, who fled the country, was arrested two months later at London Heathrow Airport. Ray was sentenced to 99 years in prison for King's murder, and died in 1998 from hepatitis while serving his sentence.


The Poor People's Campaign, or Poor People's March on Washington, was a 1968 effort to gain economic justice for poor people in the United States. It was organized by Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and carried out under the leadership of Ralph Abernathy in the wake of King's assassination.
The campaign demanded economic and human rights for poor Americans of diverse backgrounds. After presenting an organized set of demands to Congress and executive agencies, participants set up a 3,000-person protest camp on the Washington Mall, where they stayed for six weeks in the spring of 1968.


The Poor People’s Campaign was motivated by a desire for economic justice: the idea that all people should have what they need to live. King and the SCLC shifted their focus to these issues after observing that gains in civil rights had not improved the material conditions of life for many African Americans. The Poor People’s Campaign was a multiracial effort—including African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Native Americans—aimed at alleviating poverty regardless of race.

A shantytown established in Washington, D. C. to protest economic conditions as a part of the Poor People's Campaign.
"A shantytown established in Washington, D. C. to protest economic conditions as a part of the Poor People's Campaign.""A shantytown established in Washington, D. C. to protest economic conditions as a part of the Poor People's Campaign."


Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a holiday in numerous cities and states beginning in 1971, and as a U.S. federal holiday in 1986. Hundreds of streets in the U.S. have been renamed in his honor, and a county in Washington State was also rededicated for him. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., was dedicated in 2011.

The Stone of Hope at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Washington D.C.

"The Stone of Hope at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.""The Stone of Hope at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial."


King was awarded at least fifty honorary degrees from colleges and universities. On October 14, 1964, King became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to him for leading nonviolent resistance to racial prejudice in the U.S. In 1965, he was awarded the American Liberties Medallion by the American Jewish Committee for his "exceptional advancement of the principles of human liberty." In his acceptance remarks, King said, "Freedom is one thing. You have it all or you are not free."


King stood behind President Johnson as he signed the civil rights act

"King stood behind President Johnson as he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.""King stood behind President Johnson as he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964."

In 1957, he was awarded the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP. Two years later, he won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for his book Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story. In 1966, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America awarded King the Margaret Sanger Award for "his courageous resistance to bigotry and his lifelong dedication to the advancement of social justice and human dignity." Also in 1966, King was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In November 1967 he made a 24-hour trip to the United Kingdom to receive an honorary degree from Newcastle University, being the first African-American to be so honoured by Newcastle. In a moving impromptu acceptance speech, he said:
There are three urgent and indeed great problems that we face not only in the United States of America but all over the world today. That is the problem of racism, the problem of poverty and the problem of war.
In 1971 he was posthumously awarded a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for his Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam.
In 1977, the Presidential Medal of Freedom was posthumously awarded to King by President Jimmy Carter. The citation read:
Martin Luther King Jr. was the conscience of his generation. He gazed upon the great wall of segregation and saw that the power of love could bring it down. From the pain and exhaustion of his fight to fulfill the promises of our founding fathers for our humblest citizens, he wrung his eloquent statement of his dream for America. He made our nation stronger because he made it better. His dream sustains us yet.
King and his wife were also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.
King was second in Gallup's List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century. In 1963, he was named Time Person of the Year, and in 2000, he was voted sixth in an online "Person of the Century" poll by the same magazine. King placed third in the Greatest American contest conducted by the Discovery Channel and AOL.

Speechwriter and orator

The famous "I Have a Dream" address was delivered in August 1963 from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Less well-remembered are the early sermons of that young, 25-year-old pastor who first began preaching at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1954. As a political leader in the Civil Rights Movement and as a modest preacher in a Baptist church, King evolved and matured across the span of a life cut short. The range of his rhetoric was anticipated and encompassed within "The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life," which he preached as his trial sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in 1954 and every year thereafter for the rest of his life.

Sermons:



  • The First President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

  • In office

  • 1957–1968
  • Preceded by Inaugural holder
  • Succeeded by Ralph Abernathy
  • Personal details

  • Born: Martin Luther King Jr.
  • January 15, 1929
  • Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
  • Died: April 4, 1968 (aged 39)
  • Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
  • Cause of death: Gunshot head wound
  • Nationality: American
  • Spouse(s): Coretta Scott (m. 1953)
  • Children:
  • Yolanda Denise King
  • Martin Luther King III
  • Dexter Scott King
  • Bernice Albertine King
  • Parents:
  • Martin Luther King Sr.
  • Alberta Williams King
  • Relatives:
  • Christine King Farris (sister)
  • Alfred Daniel Williams King (brother)
  • Alveda King (niece)
  • Alma mater
  • Morehouse College
  • Crozer Theological Seminary
  • Boston University
  • Occupation:
  • Minister activist
  • Known for Civil rights movement, Peace movement
  • Awards:
  • Nobel Peace Prize (1964)
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom (1977, posthumous)
  • Congressional Gold Medal (2004, posthumous)
  • Monuments: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

Albany Movement

The Albany Movement was a desegregation coalition formed in Albany, Georgia, in November 1961. In December, King and the SCLC became involved. The movement mobilized thousands of citizens for a broad-front nonviolent attack on every aspect of segregation within the city and attracted nationwide attention. When King first visited on December 15, 1961, he "had planned to stay a day or so and return home after giving counsel." The following day he was swept up in a mass arrest of peaceful demonstrators, and he declined bail until the city made concessions. According to King, "that agreement was dishonored and violated by the city" after he left town.


King returned in July 1962 and was given the option of forty-five days in jail or a $178 fine (equivalent to $1,400 in 2017); he chose jail. Three days into his sentence, Police Chief Laurie Pritchett discreetly arranged for King's fine to be paid and ordered his release. "We had witnessed persons being kicked off lunch counter stools ... ejected from churches ... and thrown into jail ... But for the first time, we witnessed being kicked out of jail." It was later acknowledged by the King Center that Billy Graham was the one who bailed King out of jail during this time.


After nearly a year of intense activism with few tangible results, the movement began to deteriorate. King requested a halt to all demonstrations and a "Day of Penance" to promote nonviolence and maintain the moral high ground. Divisions within the black community and the canny, low-key response by local government defeated efforts. Though the Albany effort proved a key lesson in tactics for King and the national civil rights movement, the national media was highly critical of King's role in the defeat, and the SCLC's lack of results contributed to a growing gulf between the organization and the more radical SNCC. After Albany, King sought to choose engagements for the SCLC in which he could control the circumstances, rather than entering into pre-existing situations.

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) (Of Shaw University)

"Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) (Of Shaw University)""Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) (Of Shaw University)"

Birmingham Campaign

The Birmingham campaign, or Birmingham movement, was a movement organized in early 1963 by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to bring attention to the integration efforts of African Americans in Birmingham, Alabama. Led by Martin Luther King Jr., James Bevel, Fred Shuttlesworth and others, the campaign of nonviolent direct action culminated
in widely publicized confrontations between young black students and white civic authorities, and eventually led the municipal government to change the city's discrimination laws.

High school students are hit by a high-pressure water jet from a fire hose

"High school students are hit by a high-pressure water jet from a fire hose during a peaceful walk in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. As photographed by Charles Moore, images like this one, printed in Life, inspired international support for the demonstrators.""High school students are hit by a high-pressure water jet from a fire hose during a peaceful walk in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. As photographed by Charles Moore, images like this one, printed in Life, inspired international support for the demonstrators."

and, as the jails and holding areas filled with arrested students, the Birmingham Police Department, led by Eugene "Bull" Connor, used high-pressure water hoses and police attack dogs on the children and adult bystanders. Not all of the bystanders were peaceful, despite the avowed intentions of SCLC to hold a completely nonviolent walk, but the students held to the nonviolent premise. King and the SCLC drew both criticism and praise for allowing children to participate and put themselves in harm's way.


Shuttlesworth meant to pressure business leaders to open employment to people of all races, and end segregation in public facilities, restaurants, schools, and stores. When local business and governmental leaders resisted the boycott, SCLC agreed to assist. Organizer Wyatt Tee Walker joined Birmingham activist Shuttlesworth and began what they called Project C, a series of sit-ins and marches intended to provoke mass arrests.

King was arrested for protesting the treatment of blacks in Birmingham.

"King was arrested for protesting the treatment of blacks in Birmingham."King was arrested for protesting the treatment of blacks in Birmingham."

The Birmingham campaign was a model of nonviolent direct action protest and, through the media, drew the world's attention to racial segregation in the South. It burnished King's reputation, ousted Connor from his job, forced desegregation in Birmingham, and directly paved the way for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibited racial discrimination in hiring practices and public services throughout the United States.

Selma, Alabama - Selma State Police Violence

Selma to Montgomery marches In December 1964, King and the SCLC joined forces with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Selma, Alabama, where the SNCC had been working on voter registration for several months.

Bloody Sunday: Alabama State Troopers Attack Civil Rights Demonstrators

"Alabama State troopers attack civil-rights demonstrators outside Selma, Alabama, on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965.""Alabama State troopers attack civil-rights demonstrators outside Selma, Alabama, on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965."

A local judge issued an injunction that barred any gathering of 3 or more people affiliated with the SNCC, SCLC, DCVL, or any of 41 named civil rights leaders. This injunction temporarily halted civil rights activity until King defied it by speaking at Brown Chapel on January 2, 1965. During the 1965 march to Montgomery, Alabama, violence by state police and others against the peaceful marchers resulted in much publicity, making Alabama's racism visible nationwide.

Martin Luther King Jr. - Religion

King at the 1963 Civil Rights March in Washington, D.C. As a Christian minister, King's main influence was Jesus Christ and the Christian gospels, which he would almost always quote in his religious meetings, speeches at church, and in public discourses. King's faith was strongly based in Jesus' commandment of loving your neighbor as yourself, loving God above all, and loving your enemies, praying for them and blessing them. His nonviolent thought was also based in the injunction to turn the other cheek in the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus' teaching of putting the sword back into its place (Matthew 26:52). In his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, King urged action consistent with what he describes as Jesus' "extremist" love, and also quoted numerous other Christian pacifist authors, which was very usual for him. In another sermon, he stated:


Before I was a civil rights leader, I was a preacher of the Gospel. This was my first calling and it still remains my greatest commitment. You know, actually all that I do in civil rights I do because I consider it a part of my ministry. I have no other ambitions in life but to achieve excellence in the Christian ministry. I don't plan to run for any political office. I don't plan to do anything but remain a preacher. And what I'm doing in this struggle, along with many others, grows out of my feeling that the preacher must be concerned about the whole man.


In his speech "I've Been to the Mountaintop", he stated that he just wanted to do God's will.

Detroit Walk to Freedom

The Walk to Freedom was a mass march during the Civil Rights Movement on June 23, 1963 in Detroit, Michigan. It drew crowds of an estimated 125,000 or more and was known as "the largest civil rights demonstration in the nation's history" up to that date.


Various ministers and leaders of local and national organizations including the Mayor of Detroit were in attendance and gave speeches. Among them was Martin Luther King Jr. who after the Walk to Freedom March gave an impassioned speech. It was a precursor to his famous "I Have a Dream" speech given weeks later in Washington, D.C.. The march itself was, to King and his supporters, partly a practice run of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.


Due to the greater size of the March on Washington, the Detroit Walk to Freedom has been somewhat lost to obscurity outside of local Detroit history. At the time, Dr. King called it “one of the most wonderful things that has happened in America.”

"I Have A Dream" Speech - 1963

King delivered a 17-minute speech, later known as "I Have a Dream". In the speech's most famous passage—in which he departed from his prepared text, possibly at the prompting of Mahalia Jackson, who shouted behind him, "Tell them about the dream!"

Martin Luther King Jr's Speech:

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. 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 the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little 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.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.


"I Have a Dream" came to be regarded as one of the finest speeches in the history of American oratory. The March, and especially King's speech, helped put civil rights at the top of the agenda of reformers in the United States and facilitated passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


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