Martin Luther King Jr.
Michael King Jr.
, January 15, 1929Â â April 4, 1968) was an AmericanÂ BaptistÂ minister and activist who was a leader in theÂ Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement ofÂ civil rightsÂ usingÂ nonviolentÂ civil disobedienceÂ based on hisÂ ChristianÂ beliefs.
King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955Â Montgomery bus boycottÂ and helped found theÂ Southern Christian Leadership ConferenceÂ (SCLC) in 1957, serving as its first president. With the SCLC, King led an unsuccessfulÂ 1962 struggle against segregationÂ inÂ Albany, Georgia, and helped organize the 1963 nonviolent protests inÂ Birmingham, Alabama. King also helped to organize the 1963Â March on Washington, where he delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
On October 14, 1964, King received theÂ Nobel Peace PrizeÂ for combating racial inequality throughÂ nonviolent resistance. In 1965, he helped to organize theÂ Selma to Montgomery marches, and the following year he and SCLC took the movement north toÂ ChicagoÂ to work on segregated housing. In the final years of his life, King expanded his focus to include opposition towardsÂ povertyÂ and the Vietnam War, alienating many of hisÂ liberalÂ allies with a 1967 speech titled "Beyond Vietnam".Slide3
EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION
was born on January 15, 1929, inÂ Atlanta, Georgia, to the ReverendÂ Martin Luther King Sr.Â (1899â1984) andÂ Alberta Williams KingÂ (1904â1974).Â King's legal name at birth was Michael King,
Â and his father was also born Michael King, but the elder King changed his and his son's names following a 1934 trip toÂ GermanyÂ to attend theÂ Fifth Baptist World Alliance Congress inÂ Berlin. It was during this time he chose to be called Martin Luther King in honor of the German reformerÂ Martin Luther King's parents were both African-American, and he also hadÂ IrishÂ ancestry through his paternal great-grandfather.
King was a middle child, between an older sister,Â Willie Christine King, and a younger brother,Â Alfred Daniel Williams King.Â King sang with his church choir at the 1939 Atlanta premiere of the movieÂ
Gone with the Wind.
Â King liked singing and music. His mother was an accomplished organist and choir leader, and she took him to various churches to sing. He received attention for singing "I Want to Be More and More Like Jesus." King later became a member of the junior choir in his church.
King said that his father regularly whipped him until he was fifteen; a neighbor reported hearing the elder King telling his son "he would make something of him even if he had to beat him to death." King saw his father's proud and fearless protests against segregation, such as King Sr. refusing to listen to a traffic policeman after being referred to as "boy," or stalking out of a store with his son when being told by a shoe clerk that they would have to "move to the rear" of the store to be served.Slide4
King began doctoral studies inÂ systematic theologyÂ atÂ Boston UniversityÂ and received hisÂ Ph.D.Â on June 5, 1955, with aÂ dissertationÂ onÂ
A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking ofÂ Paul TillichÂ andÂ Henry Nelson
Â While pursuing doctoral studies, King worked as an assistant minister at Boston's historicÂ Twelfth Baptist ChurchÂ with Rev. William Hunter Hester. Hester was an old friend of King's father, and was an important influence on King.
Decades later, an academic inquiry in October 1991 concluded that portions of his dissertation had beenÂ plagiarizedÂ and he had acted improperly. However,Â "[d]
Â its finding, the committee said that 'no thought should be given to the revocation of Dr. King's doctoral degree,' an action that the panel said would serve no purpose."Â The committee also found that the dissertation still "makes an intelligent contribution to scholarship." A letter is now attached to the copy of King's dissertation held in the university library, noting that numerous passages were included without the appropriate quotations and citations of sources.Slide5
MONTGOMERY BUS BOYCOTT, 1955
In March 1955,Â Claudette Colvin, a black fifteen-year-old pregnant schoolgirl in Montgomery, refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in compliance withÂ Jim Crow laws, which were local regulations in theÂ Southern United StatesÂ that enforcedÂ racial segregation. King was on the committee from the Birmingham African-American community that looked into the case; because Colvin was pregnant and unmarried,Â E. D. NixonÂ andÂ Clifford
Â decided to wait for a better case to pursue.
On December 1, 1955,Â Rosa ParksÂ was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a city bus.
Â The Montgomery bus boycott, urged and planned by Nixon and led by King, soon followed.Â The boycott lasted for 385 days,Â and the situation became so tense thatÂ King's house was bombed.Â King was arrested during this campaign, which concluded with a United States District Court ruling inÂ Browder v. GayleÂ that ended racial segregation on all Montgomery public buses.Â King's role in the bus boycott transformed him into a national figure and the best-known spokesman of the civil rights movement.Slide6
SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN LEDDERSHIP CONFERENCE
In 1957, King,Â Ralph Abernathy,Â Fred Shuttles worth,Â Joseph Lowery, and other civil rights activists founded theÂ Southern Christian Leadership ConferenceÂ (SCLC). The group was created to harness theÂ moral authorityÂ and organizing power of black churches to conduct nonviolent protests in the service of civil rights reform. One of the group's inspirations was the crusades of evangelistÂ Billy Graham, who befriended King after he attended a Graham crusade in New York City in 1957.Â King led the SCLC until his death.Â The SCLC's 1957Â Prayer Pilgrimage for FreedomÂ was the first time King addressed a national audience.Â Other civil rights leaders involved in the SCLC with King included:Â James Bevel,Â Allen Johnson,Â
W. Harris,Â Walter E.
,Â C. T. Vivian,Â Andrew Young,Â The Freedom Singers,Â Charles Evers,Â Cleveland Robinson,Â Randolph Blackwell,Â Annie Bell Robinson Devine,Â Charles
Steele,Â Alfred Daniel Williams King,Â Benjamin Hooks,Â Aaron HenryÂ andÂ Bayard Rustin.Slide7
The Albany Movement was a desegregation coalition formed inÂ Albany, Georgia, in November 1961. In December, King and the SCLC became involved. The movement mobilized thousands of citizens for a broad-front nonviolent attack on every aspect of segregation within the city and attracted nationwide attention. When King first visited on December 15, 1961, he "had planned to stay a day or so and return home after giving counsel."Â The following day he was swept up in aÂ mass arrestÂ of peaceful demonstrators, and he declined bail until the city made concessions. According to King, "that agreement was dishonored and violated by the city" after he left town.
King returned in July 1962, and was sentenced to forty-five days in jail or a $178 fine. He chose jail. Three days into his sentence, Police Chief Laurie Pritchett discreetly arranged for King's fine to be paid and ordered his release. "We had witnessed persons being kicked off lunch counter stoolsÂ ... ejected from churchesÂ ... and thrown into jailÂ ... But for the first time, we witnessed being kicked out of jail."Â It was later acknowledged by the King Center thatÂ Billy Graham Â was the one who bailed King out of jail during this time.
After nearly a year of intense activism with few tangible results, the movement began to deteriorate. King requested a halt to all demonstrations and a "Day of Penance" to promote nonviolence and maintain the moral high ground.Slide8
ST. AUGUSTIAN FLORIDA
In March 1964, King and the SCLC joined forces with Robert
then-controversial movement in St. Augustine, Florida.
group had been affiliated with the NAACP but was forced out of the organization for advocating armed self-defense alongside nonviolent tactics. However, the pacifist SCLC accepted them.
King and the SCLC worked to bring white Northern activists toÂ St. Augustine, including a delegation of rabbis and the 72-year-old mother of the governor of Massachusetts, all of whom were arrested.
During June, the movement marched nightly through the city, "often facing counter demonstrations by the Klan, and provoking violence that garnered national media attention." Hundreds of the marchers were arrested and jailed. During the course of this movement, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed.Slide9
In December 1964, King and the SCLC joined forces with theÂ Student Nonviolent Coordinating CommitteeÂ (SNCC) inÂ Selma, Alabama, where the SNCC had been working on voter registration for several months.Â A local judge issued an injunction that barred any gathering of 3 or more people affiliated with the SNCC, SCLC, DCVL, or any of 41 named civil rights leaders. This injunction temporarily halted civil rights activity until King defied it by speaking atÂ Brown ChapelÂ on January 2, 1965.Slide10
NEW YORK CITY
On February 6, 1964, King delivered the inaugural speech of a lecture series initiated at theÂ New SchoolÂ called "The American Race Crisis." No audio record of his speech has been found, but in August 2013, almost 50 years later, the school discovered an audiotape with 15 minutes of a question-and-answer session that followed King's address. In these remarks, King referred to a conversation he had recently had withÂ Jawaharlal NehruÂ in which he compared the sad condition of many African Americans to that of
MARCH ON WASHINGTON 1963
King, representing the SCLC, was among the leaders of the "Big Six" civil rights organizations who were instrumental in the organization of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which took place on August 28, 1963. The other leaders and organizations comprising the Big Six wereÂ Roy WilkinsÂ from theÂ National Association for the Advancement of Colored People;Â Whitney Young,Â National Urban League;Â A. Philip Randolph,Â Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters;Â John Lewis, SNCC; andÂ James L. Farmer Jr., of theÂ Congress of Racial Equality.
The primary logistical and strategic organizer was King's colleagueÂ Bayard Rustin.
For King, this role was another which courted controversy, since he was one of the key figures who acceded to the wishes ofÂ United States President John F. KennedyÂ in changing the focus of the march.Â Kennedy initially opposed the march outright, because he was concerned it would negatively impact the drive for passage ofÂ civil rights legislation. However, the organizers were firm that the march would proceed.Â With the march going forward, the Kennedys decided it was important to work to ensure its success. President Kennedy was concerned the turnout would be less than 100,000. Therefore, he enlisted the aid of additional church leaders and theÂ UAWÂ union to help mobilize demonstrators for the cause.