A History of Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January, 15 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. He was initially known as Micheal King Jr. and was the second child of Michael King Sr. and Alberta Williams King. King had an older sister named Willie Christine and a younger brother, Alfred Daniel Williams King, which made him the middle-child. King was from a middle-class family. He grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. His family resided on Auburn Avenue which was recognized as the “Black Wall Street”, which included America’s largest and most successful black businesses and black churches years prior to the civil rights movement. Although King was fortunate to live in a secure and loving area and have parents who desperately tried to protect him from racism, he often still encountered situations experiencing prejudices. When Martin was a child, his white peers refused to play with him because they were now attending segregated schools.

Martin Luther King Jr. began attending public school when he was five. He attended his highschool years at Booker T. Washington and was considered academically advanced. King skipped grades nine and eleven and astonishingly attended Morehouse College at fifteen.

Before commencing college, he spent the summer in Connecticut. This was the first time he was away from his parents and experienced racial relations away from the segregated south. He was astonished how the races in the north were mixed. He noted how blacks and whites were able to go to the same church and were able to eat anywhere. The experience invoked King’s first emotions towards segregation.

In college, King gained a sociology degree in 1948. King was an excellent student in all his classes. He earned a scholarship at graduate school. When King was 25, he had already completed and earned his Ph.D. and his degree. Initially, King was interested in law or medicine, but his choice changed in his senior year as he wanted to enter the ministry.

King’s family was deeply religious as they were actively involved in church and worship. However, he was uncomfortable and hesitant in conveying deep emotions towards religion. This discomfort was persistent throughout his adolescence contributing to his initial decision of not entering the ministry. He rebelled against his father’s faith and wishes by drinking and playing pool while he was in college. Additionally, he became associated with a white woman. In King’s junior year in college, he took a Bible class which assisted him to regain his faith and allowed him to realize that he could have a career in the ministry. During his final year in college, he became influenced by his college President Benjamin E . Mays who changed King’s spiritual beliefs. Mays encouraged King to become an advocate for racial injustice. King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church of Montgomery, Alabama in 1954. King was always interested in civil rights, but his passion truly became intense when he understood and believed his Protestant faith. He became president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, and his Christian faith helped him to create the ideals for this organization.

Martin Luther King Jr. had suffered the humility of unequal civil rights. King was exposed to the inequalities of race due to institutional segregation. He fought against racism, not because he directly victimized, but because he genuinely detested it and considered it to offend God’s will. As a child, he was bewildered why others were not practicing the golden rule, “treating everyone equal and with respect.” Throughout the years, King experienced situations with inequity associated with public use facilities, transportation, and voting. He was determined to make a change in a rational manner without engaging in violence. He embraced Mahatma Gandhi’s principle that change can be made with a peaceful revolution.

Martin Luther King Jr. had also assisted Rosa Parks, who was an individual that refused to give up her seat for a white. Parks was arrested and was fined as she had violated the Montgomery city code. The night she was arrested, the local head of the National Association, E.D. Nixon discussed the situation with King and other advocates and decided to initiate the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He led this as it was thought he held a strong credibility in the black community. The Boycott lasted for 381 days which included walking to work, harassment, violence, intimidation. However, King’s and Nixon’s homes were attacked in regards to this.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister and a civil-right activist. He had a large impact on race relations in the United States. In January 1957, King and numerous other civil activists found the Southern Christian. This was an organization that would promote civil rights reform in a non-violent matter. It was the best place for African Americans to enhance their voice. Throughout his career, his activism and inspirational speeches played a vital role in eradicating the African-American Segregation in America. Additionally, he was important to creating the Civil Rights Acts in 1964 and Voting Rights Act 1965. In 1964, Martin won the Nobel Peace Prize. Along with several others, Martin Luther King Jr.

In 1959, King visited Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace in India. This trip allowed him to increase his commitment for civil rights. Martin Luther King Jr. became associated with Bayard Rustin, an African American civil rights activist who studied Gandhi’s norms. Rustin became King’s mentor and assisted him in activism.

In spring of 1963, King arranged a demonstration in Birmingham, Alabama. The city police showed up and attacked the demonstrators with their dogs and fire hoses. King and various other supporters were arrested. Shortly after, he was arrested he received a letter from a local Jewish and Christian religious leader that criticized him. As King was isolated in his prison cell, he wrote his response letter. In his famous letter, Letter from Birmingham Jail , he stated he explained his non-violent protest theory. A major quote from the letter; “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community, which has constantly refused to negotiate, is forced to confront the issue.” This entire event drew attention from all over the world.

On August 28, 1963 King delivered his famous “I Have A Dream Dream” speech. He emphasized his belief on civil rights. This caused a rising concern and produced an increased opinion on racism. There were individuals in communities which had not experienced racial tensions who disagreed with his opinion.

“I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” — Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have A Dream” speech, August 28, 1963

On March 7, 1965, a civil right march took place. As the demonstrators tried to pass Edmund Pettus Bridge, the police created a violent scene as they attacked with nightsticks and tear gas. King was not involved in this incident, but the attack was shown on television. This horrifying day concluded with severely injured individuals and seventeen in the hospital. This is known as “Bloody Sunday.” The second march could not take place due to a restraining order. However, there was a third march and King took part in it. On March 9, 1965, approximately 1,500 marchers both white and black confronted barricades and state troopers. This time they took a different approach, King encouraged the supporters to kneel and then turn around. Alabama governor George Wallace tried to prevent future marches, but President Lyndon B. Johnson supported King. The U.S army and the Alabama Guard were ordered to protect the protesters. Soon the President agreed to sign the Voting Rights Act.

King also tried to speak out to assist in the Vietnam War in 1955. He made a link between discrimination and He believed that American had little involvement with the situation was absurd and it was discriminatory to the poor. King broadened his number of supporters by speaking out about this issue.

From late 1965 to 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. continued with his civil rights act. He spread awareness in several American cities and received criticism and public challenges. By 1968, King had grown tired of his actions and started to become discouraged at the slow progress of civil rights and increasing criticism. On April 3, he gave his final speech, where he expressed that although he wasn’t able to create a dramatic change in civil rights, eventually they would reach the “promised land.” The next day, April 3, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was killed by a sniper’s bullet. The assassination provoked riots and demonstrations in over 100 cities. In 1969, the shooter, James Earl Ray pleaded guilty and was sent to jail for a lifetime.

Martin Luther King Jr. had a major impact on race relations in American. Still, he is the most widely known African American leader of this time. His actions have been honored with a national day, institutions named after him, a memorial located in Independence Mall in Washington, D.C. He is known as a leader who was deeply involved in achieving social justice in a non-violent matter.