One of the main leaders of the civil rights movement was Martin Luther King Jr. Born on January 15, 1929 Martin Luther King was not only involved in the civil rights movement but was also a Baptist minister and is regarded as one of America’s greatest orators.
Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia to Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King. He was sandwiched between his older sister Willie Christine and younger brother Albert Daniel. One of the highlights of King’s younger life was when he sang with his church choir at the 1939 Atlanta premiere of the movie Gone with the Wind. He entered Morehouse College at the age of fifteen, as he was able to skip his ninth and twelfth high school grades without formally graduating. When he graduated in 1948, from Morehouse with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology, he then enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania and graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1951. In September of that same year, King began his doctoral studies in Systematic Theology at Boston University and received his Doctor of Philosophy on June 5, 1955.
In 1953, at the young age of twenty four years old, Martin Luther King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, in Montgomery, Alabama. He was serving there when on December 1, 1955; Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to comply with the Jim Crow laws that required her to give up her seat to a white man. This prompted King to lead The Montgomery Bus Boycott. The boycott lasted for 382 days, with the situation becoming so tense that King’s house was bombed. King was later arrested during this campaign. This monumental event in American history ended with a United States Supreme Court decision outlawing racial segregation on all public transport.
It was also during this time that Martin Luther King, while in Boston, met and married Coretta Scott, a young woman of uncommon intellectual and artistic attainments. Two sons and two daughters added to the King family.
King was instrumental in the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, a group that was created to harness the moral authority and organizing power of black churches to conduct non-violent protests in the service of civil rights reform. Throughout his life King was an adherent of the philosophies of nonviolent civil disobedience used successfully in India by Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi, and he applied this philosophy to the protests organized by the SCLC.
King had the foresight to realize that organized, nonviolent protest against the system of southern segregation known as Jim Crow laws would lead to extensive media coverage of the struggle for black equality and voting rights. The journalistic accounts and televised footage of the daily deprivation and indignities suffered by southern blacks, and the incidents of segregationist violence and harassment of civil rights workers and marchers, produced a wave of sympathetic public opinion that made the Civil Rights Movement the single most important issue in American politics in the early 1960s.
King leadership made it possible for the Civil Rights Movement to organize and lead marches for blacks’ right to vote, desegregation, labor rights and other basic civil rights. Because of his work most of these rights were successfully enacted into United States law with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Sadly on the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, he was assassinated. He was in Memphis to lead a protest by striking garbage workers who were demanding better pay and equal parity with their white co workers. Martin Luther King, Jr. was only thirty-nine years old.