Martin Luther King

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Martin Luther King, Jr.

King, Martin Luther, Jr. (1929-1968), an African American Baptist minister, was the main leader of the civil rights movement in the United States during the 1950's and 1960's. He had a magnificent speaking ability, which enabled him to effectively express the demands of African Americans for social justice. King's eloquent pleas won the support of millions of people—blacks and whites—and made him internationally famous. He won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize for leading nonviolent civil rights demonstrations. In spite of King's stress on nonviolence, he often became the target of violence. White racists bombed his home in Montgomery, Alabama, and threw rocks at him in Chicago. Finally, violence ended King's life at the age of 39, when an assassin shot and killed him. Some historians view King's death as the end of the civil rights era that began in the mid-1950. Under his leadership, the civil rights movement won wide support among whites, and laws that had barred integration in the Southern States were abolished. King became only the second American whose birthday is observed as a national holiday. The first was George Washington, the nation's first president.  Table

"I Have a Dream"
King based his program of nonviolence on Christian teachings. He wrote five books: Stride Toward Freedom (1958), Strength to Love (1963), Why We Can't Wait (1964), Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (1967), and the Trumpet of Conscience (1968). Early life. King was born on Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta. His name at birth was Michael King, Jr., after his father, Michael King. But his father changed their names to Martin Luther King, Sr. and Jr., when the boy was about 5. Martin was the second oldest child of Alberta Williams King and Michael King. He had an older sister, Christine, and a younger brother, A. D. The young Martin was usually called M. L. His father served as pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. One of Martin's grandfathers, A. D. Williams, also had been pastor there.

Martin Luther King, Jr., birth home
In high school, Martin did so well that he skipped both the 9th and 12th grades. At the age of 15, he entered Morehouse College in Atlanta. King became an admirer of Benjamin E. Mays, More houses’ president and a well-known scholar of black religion. Under Mays's influence, King decided to become a minister. King was ordained just before he graduated from Morehouse in 1948. He entered Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, to earn a divinity degree. King then went to graduate school at Boston University, where he got a Ph.D. degree in theology in 1955. In Boston, he met Coretta Scott of Marion, Alabama, a music student. They were married in 1953. The Kings had four children—Yolanda, Dexter, Martin, and Bernice. In 1954, King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Print "Early life" subsection

Martin Luther King, Jr., organizing a boycott
The early civil rights movement. King's civil rights activities began with a protest of Montgomery's segregated bus system in 1955. That year, a black passenger named Rosa Parks was arrested for disobeying a city law requiring that blacks give up their seats on buses when white people wanted to sit in their seats or in the same row. Black leaders in Montgomery urged blacks to boycott (refuse to use) the city's buses. The leaders formed an organization to run the boycott, and asked King to serve as president. In his first speech as leader of the boycott, King told his black colleagues: "First and foremost, we are American citizens. ... We are not here advocating violence. ... The only weapon that we have ... is the weapon of protest. ... The great glory of American democracy is the right to protest for right."

Martin Luther King, Jr., in Birmingham jail
Terrorists bombed King's home, but King continued to insist on nonviolent protests. Thousands of...
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