Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929
at his family home in Atlanta, Georgia. King was an eloquent
Baptist minister and leader of the civil-rights movement
in America from the Mid-1950s until his death by assassination
in 1968. King promoted non-violent means to achieve civil-rights
reform and was awarded the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize for
King's grandfather was a Baptist preacher. His father
was pastor of Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church. King
earned his own Bachelor of Divinity degree from Crozier
Theological Seminary in 1951 and earned his Doctor of
Philosophy from Boston University in 1955.
While at seminary King became acquainted with Mohandas
Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolent social protest. On a
trip to India in 1959 King met with followers of Gandhi.
During these discussions he became more convinced than
ever that nonviolent resistance was the most potent weapon
available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.
As a pastor of a Baptist church in Montgomery, Alabama,
King lead a Black bus boycott. He and ninety others were
arrested and indicted under the provisions of a law making
it illegal to conspire to obstruct the operation of a
business. King and several others were found guilty, but
appealed their case. As the bus boycott dragged on, King
was gaining a national reputation. The ultimate success
of the Montgomery bus boycott made King a national hero.
Dr. King's 1963 "Letter from Birmingham Jail"
inspired a growing national civil rights movement. In
Birmingham, the goal was to completely end the system
of segregation in every aspect of public life (stores,
no separate bathrooms and drinking fountains, etc.) and
in job discrimination. Also in 1963, King led a massive
march on Washington DC where he delivered his now famous,
"I Have A Dream" speech. King's tactics of active
nonviolence (sit-ins, protest marches) had put civil-rights
squarely on the national agenda.
On April 4, 1968, King was shot by James Earl Ray while
standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis,
Tennessee. He was only 39 at the time of his death. Dr.
King was turning his attention to a nationwide campaign
to help the poor at the time of his assassination. He
had never wavered in his insistence that nonviolence must
remain the central tactic of the civil-rights movement,
nor in his faith that everyone in America would some day
attain equal justice.