King, Martin Luther, Jr. (1929-1968), American clergyman and Nobel Prize winner, one of the principal leaders of the American civil rights movement and a prominent advocate of nonviolent protest. King’s challenges to segregation and racial discrimination in the 1950s and 1960s helped convince many white Americans to support the cause of civil rights in the United States. After his assassination in 1968, King became a symbol of protest in the struggle for racial justice.
Education and Early Life
Martin Luther King, Jr., was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the eldest son of Martin Luther King, Sr., a Baptist minister, and Alberta Williams King. His father served as pastor of a large Atlanta church, Ebenezer Baptist, which had been founded by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s maternal grandfather. King, Jr. was ordained as a Baptist minister at age 18.
King attended local segregated public schools, where he excelled. He entered nearby Morehouse College at age 15 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1948. After graduating with honors from Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania in 1951, he went to Boston University where he earned a doctoral degree in systematic theology in 1955.
King’s public-speaking abilities—which would become renowned as his stature grew in the civil rights movement—developed slowly during his collegiate years. He won a second-place prize in a speech contest while an undergraduate at Morehouse, but received Cs in two public-speaking courses in his first year at Crozer. By the end of his third year at Crozer, however, professors were praising King for the powerful impression he made in public speeches and discussions.
Throughout his education, King was exposed to influences that related Christian theology to the struggles of oppressed peoples. At Morehouse, Crozer, and Boston University, he studied the teachings on nonviolent protest of Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi.... [continues]
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