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Friday, 6 November 2015

Martin Luther King, Jr.


Martin Luther King was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. His legal name at birth was Michael King and his father was also born Michael King, but the elder King changed his and his son's names following a 1934 trip to Germany in honor of the German reformer Martin Luther.

Martin Luther King was the great grandson of a southern slave.

Martin's father was a Baptist pastor, missionary, and an early figure in the American Civil Rights Movement. He was a great influence on son in showing the importance of faith and family in holding together the Black community.

His mother, Mrs Alberta Williams King was a school teacher.

Martin was the second of three children; he had an older sister Christine and younger brother Alfred Daniel.

Martin encountered racism at an early age; when he was six his friendship with two white playmates was cut short by their parents.

King suffered from depression from early on in his life. When he was 12, he mistakenly thought his brother had accidentally killed his maternal grandmother, and in his grief, he threw himself from the upstairs window of his home. Fortunately he wasn't harmed. Later that year Martin's grandma did die and thinking he was responsible for her death as he once sneaked off to a parade on the Sabbath, Martin threw himself from the same window. Again he survived.

Martin Luther King, Jr., showing his medallion received from Mayor Wagner


At the age of 15, King passed the entrance exam and entered Morehouse College, a private, all-male, historically black college located in Atlanta.

The summer before his last year at Morehouse, the 18-year-old King made the choice to enter the ministry,

In 1948, King graduated from Morehouse with a B.A. degree in sociology, He enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, from which he graduated with a B.Div. degree in 1951.

King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, when he was twenty-five years old, in 1954.

He received his Ph.D. in Systematic theology from Boston University on June 5, 1955, with a dissertation on "A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman".

In 1960 King returned to Atlanta to pastor Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church where he was baptized and his father Martin Luther King, Sr. once led.


King was originally skeptical of many of Christianity's claims. At the age of thirteen, he denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus during Sunday school. However, he later concluded that the Bible's claims were true and decided to enter the seminary.

King required his volunteers to sign a strict pledge that committed them to daily meditation on Jesus’ teaching and regular prayer.

A passionate believer in non-violence, Dr Martin Luther King Jr's unique combination of the message of Jesus (love your enemies) and the method of Gandhi (non-violent protest) gave both a strategy and a philosophy to the Civil Rights movement. " I want to be the White man's brother and not his brother in law" he once wrote.


King was the leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which started when on December 1, 1955 a black passenger, Rosa Parks, refused to give up her seat to a white passenger. During the boycott, which lasted 381 days, King’s home was bombed but he persuaded his followers to remain non-violent despite threats to their lives and property.

Photograph of Rosa Parks with Dr. Martin Luther King jr. 

In 1957 King founded the Southern Christian Leadership conference, a coalition group promoting non violent methods. He inspired blacks throughout the south to hold sit ins and freedom rides to protest against segregation.

In 1957 King traveled 780,000 miles and made 208 speeches.

King was arrested on September 5, 1958 during an Alabama protest for loitering. He was fined $14 for refusing to obey police.

King visited India in 1959 partly to study Gandhi’s passive resistance techniques.

In 1959, Martin Luther King Jr. made an impromptu stop at the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation to meet with tribal leaders. This visit would later lead Dr. King to speak out against the government's treatment, both past and present, of Native Americans.

On May 19, 1963, The New York Post Sunday Magazine published Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail, drafted four days after his arrest on April 12th during the Birmingham campaign advocating for civil rights and an end to segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. The letter was in response to "A Call for Unity," a statement made by eight white Alabama clergymen against King and his methods, following his arrest. It became one of the most-anthologized statements of the African-American Civil Rights Movement.

Recreation of Martin Luther King's cell in Birmingham Jail at the National Civil Rights Museum

At the climax of a Washington interracial march, Dr Martin Luther King gave his famous "I had a dream" speech to 250,000 followers on August 28, 1963. The notes for King's "dream speech" did not contain the passage that started with "I have a dream"—it was improvised.

Martin Luther King Jr. delivering "I Have a Dream" at the 1963 Washington D.C. Civil Rights March.

In 1964 the FBI sent Martin Luther King Jr. blackmail tapes and an anonymously written letter that attempted to convince him to commit suicide.

Martin Luther King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 14, 1964 for his nonviolent resistance to racial prejudice. At the age of 35 he was the youngest ever Nobel Prize recipient.

Martin Luther King took part in the August 1966 the Chicago Housing Movement with thousands of local whites jeering, throwing bricks, and displaying Confederate and Nazi signs all over the city. King said he experienced far more hatred in Chicago than he ever did in Alabama or Mississippi.

In 1967 King launched a poster campaign with the slogan "black is beautiful".

He was the target of intensive investigations by the federal authorities particularly the FBI under J Edgar Hoover. King was jailed 12 times for various misdemeanors and had Ku Klux Klan crosses burn on the lawn of his home.

Dorothy Parker, the American writer and wit, bequeathed most of her estate to Martin Luther King.


Martin Luther King Jr first met Coretta Scott King at college, They married on June 18, 1953. The wedding ceremony took place in Scott's parents' house in Marion, Alabama, and was performed by King's father.

Because resorts in Alabama did not serve black people, the pair spent their wedding night in the closest thing to public accommodation, a funeral parlor owned by family friends.

Coretta Scott King helped lead the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. In her early life, Coretta was an accomplished singer, and she often incorporated music into her civil rights work.

The Kings had four children, two sons Martin Luther King III and Dexter Scott and two daughters Yolanda Denise & Bernice Albertine. All four children later followed in their parents' footsteps as civil rights activists.

Mrs. King with her husband and daughter Yolanda in 1956

King confessed in a 1965 sermon of his secretary having to remind him of his wife's birthday and the couple's wedding anniversary.

King was alleged to have had a number of extramarital affairs, including one woman he saw almost daily. The FBI followed him and sent a letter to his home asking him to kill himself. With the letter was a tape of King's alleged sexual dalliances.


Martin Luther King Jr. was a huge Star Trek fan. He felt that the role of Uhura (the capable, intelligent, assertive and black woman on the Bridge floor) was a step away from the traditional stereotype 'sambo' types, traditionally played by black actors.

His favorite song was the Gospel standard "Take My Hand, Precious Lord". King played it during times of stress and often invited the gospel singer Mahalia Jackson to perform it at civil rights rallies to inspire the crowds. She sang it at King's funeral.


On April 4, 1968 Dr Martin Luther King Jr was shot and killed by James Earl Ray, when leaving his room at Lorraine Motel, Memphis, Tennessee, to attend a dinner at the home of the Reverend Samuel (Billy) Kyles. On the night before he was assassinated, he had prophetically said in a speech at Memphis "I've been to the mountain top.... I've looked over and seen the Promised Land." He was alluding to Moses who just before his death had seen the Promised Land from a mountaintop.

Lorraine Motel, Memphis
When King was assassinated outside his motel room in Memphis, he was smoking. One of his aides removed the cigarettes from King’s jacket so the public wouldn’t discover he was a smoker.

King was buried in the center of a long reflecting pool, adjacent to Ebenezer Baptist Church in north east Atlanta, where he was minister. On his tomb is inscribed "free at last, free at last. Thank God I am free at last".

Although Martin Luther King Jr. was only 39 at the time of his death, autopsy results revealed he had the heart of a 60-year-old. His biographer said this was probably the result of the immense stress his fight to end racism placed on his body.

The King family does not believe James Earl Ray was responsible for the assassination of the civil rights leader, and Coretta Scott King won a civil suit that implied government involvement.

On June 30, 1974, Alberta King, mother of Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated in church.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta consists of several buildings including King's boyhood home and the original Ebenezer Baptist Church. These places were included in the National Historic Site when it was established on October 10, 1980.

Ronald Reagan signed a bill on November 2, 1983 in the White House designating a federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15th. The day was officially observed for the first time in all 50 states on January 17, 2000, when "Human Rights Day" was officially changed to "Martin Luther King Jr. Day" in Utah.

Ronald Reagan and Coretta Scott King at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day signing ceremony.

Martin Luther King Day is celebrated in Japan to teach the importance of electoral politics and non-violent social change.

The Montgomery bus boycott was a landmark in the Black Civil Rights.movement, King's reform movement resulted in the segregation laws of the south being declared unconstitutional and equal voting rights being given to blacks.

Over 900 streets in the United States are named after Martin Luther King Jr.

Here is a list of songs inspired by Dr Martin Luther King Jr

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