Michael Luther King, Jr., better known as Martin Luther King, Jr., was born on January 15, 1929, and he passed away on April 4, 1968. His grandfather, who served as minister of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta from 1914 to 1931, started the family’s extended tenure there; his father has since taken over, and Martin Luther served as co-pastor from 1960 until his death.
King’s Education / Family
Martin Luther was educated in public schools in Georgia, which were segregated at the time; he completed high school at the age of fifteen and went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree from Morehouse College, a prestigious historically black college in Atlanta from which both of Martin Luther’s parents and grandparents had graduated. In 1951, he was granted the Bachelor of Divinity after completing three years of study in theology at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. During his time there, he was voted president of a senior class that was predominately white. After winning a fellowship at Crozer, he decided to pursue graduate studies and entered at Boston University. He finished his residency requirements for the doctorate in 1953 and was awarded the degree in 1955. In Boston, he had the good fortune to meet and marry Coretta Scott, a young lady of exceptional intellectual and artistic attainments. There were a total of four children born into the family: two sons and two girls.
King’s “Life / Dream”
Martin Luther King, Jr. was called to serve as minister of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, in the year 1954. At this point in time, Martin Luther King was serving as a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the most influential organization in the country that is dedicated to the cause of civil rights for people of color. King had always been a stalwart advocate for the civil rights of people of his race. He was prepared, then, at the beginning of December 1955, to accept the leadership of the first great nonviolent demonstration led by African Americans in contemporary times in the United States. This demonstration was the bus boycott, and it was described by Gunnar Jahn in his presentation speech given in honor of the laureate. A total of 382 days were spent participating in the strike. After the United States Supreme Court ruled that statutes mandating racial segregation on public transportation violated the Constitution on December 21, 1956, blacks and whites were allowed to ride public transportation together for the first time as equals. During the days of the boycott, Martin Luther King was arrested, his house was bombed, and he was subjected to personal abuse; however, at the same time, he emerged as a leader of the first rank among African Americans.
In 1957, he was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization that had been established in order to provide fresh leadership for the civil rights movement, which was then just beginning to emerge. Christianity provided him with the philosophical underpinnings for this group, while Gandhi inspired its method of operation. In the eleven years between 1957 and 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. traveled over six million miles, gave over twenty-five hundred speeches, and appeared wherever there was injustice, protest, and action. In the meantime, he penned five books and numerous articles. During these years, he was the leader of a huge demonstration in Birmingham, Alabama, that captured the attention of the entire world and provided what he called a coalition of conscience. and inspiring his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” a manifesto of the African American revolution; he planned the drives in Alabama for the registration of Negroes as voters; he directed the peaceful march on Washington, D.C., of 250,000 people to whom he delivered his address, “I Have a Dream;” he conferred with President John F. Kennedy and campaigned for President Lyndon B. Johnson; he was arrested upwards of twenty times and assaulted at least
Martin Luther King Jr., who earned the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 35, holds the record for being the youngest man ever to have been awarded the prize. As soon as he found out that he had been chosen, he made the announcement that he would donate the winnings of the competition, which totaled $54,123, to the advancement of the civil rights movement.
A Decade Before His Death, the King Narrowly Avoided Being Killed in an Attempt to Assassinate Him
On September 20, 1958, while Martin Luther King Jr. was in Harlem signing copies of his new book, Stride Toward Freedom, inside of Blumstein’s department store. A lady by name Izola Ware Curry confronted him and inquired as to whether or not he was Martin Luther King Jr. After he responded in the affirmative, Curry informed him, “I’ve been searching for you for the past five years,” and then she stabbed a letter opener measuring seven inches into his chest. The point of the blade ended up coming to rest along side of his aorta, and as a result, King had to undergo several hours of laborious and sensitive emergency surgery. Surgeons subsequently revealed to King that a single cough or sneeze could have fatally punctured his aorta and caused his death. King released a statement from his hospital bed, where he had been convalescing for weeks, in which he reaffirmed his nonviolent principles and said that he did not feel any ill will toward the mentally ill person who had attacked him.
King’s Final Public Address Provided a Prediction of His Own Death
King had come to Memphis in April 1968 to support the strike of the city’s Black garbage workers. He gave an address at Mason Temple Church the night before he was assassinated, in which he said, “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. There is a time and a location for living for a very long time. However, I don’t feel worried about that right now… I have been to the Land that is Promised. There’s a possibility that I won’t arrive with you. But I want you to know tonight that the Promised Land is within our reach as a people, and we will get there. In addition, I’m delighted to have this evening. Nothing is causing me any concern at all. I am not intimidated by any man. My eyes have seen the grandeur of the coming of the Lord.
The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
In Memphis, Tennessee, on the evening of April 4, 1968, he was shot and killed while standing on the balcony of his motel room, where he was about to head a protest march in support of the city’s striking garbage workers.