Black History Month
Michael Luther King Jr., now widely known as Martin Luther King Jr., was born January 15, 1929. His grandfather and father were pastors at Ebenezer Baptist Church. MLK continued the legacy serving as a co-pastor at the church from 1960 until his death in 1968.
King attended segregated public schools in Georgia, graduating from high school at the age of 15. He received a B.A. degree in 1948 from Morehouse College, a distinguished Negro institution in Atlanta from which his father and grandfather also graduated. King later studied theology at Crozier Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania where he was elected president of a predominately white senior class. He was awarded the B.D in 1951. MLK won a fellowship at Crozier. He then enrolled in graduate studies at Boston University completing his residence for doctorate in 1953 and receiving the degree in 1955.
While in Boston, he met and married Coretta Scott, a young woman of uncommon intellection and artistic attainments. They had two sons and two daughters. In 1954, MLK became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. A strong Civil Rights advocate for members of the Black community, King was, by this time, a member of the executive committee of the NAACP. Early in December 1955, he was ready to accept the leadership of the first great Negro non-violent demonstration of contemporary times in the United States – “The Montgomery Bus Boycott.” The boycott lasted 328 days. On December 21, 1956, the Supreme Court of the United States had declared the laws requiring segregation on buses were unconstitutional – Negros and whites were declared equals on public transportation. During the boycott, King was arrested, his home was bombed and he was subjected to abuse. He emerged as the leading Negro leader.
In 1957, MLK was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization formed to provide new leadership for the now burgeoning Civil Rights Movement. He took the ideas for this organization from Christianity and its operational techniques from Ghandi. In the eleven year period, between 1957 and 1968, MLK travelled over six million miles and spoke over 2500 times, making appearances whenever there was injustice, protest and action. During this period, he wrote five books and led a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama that caught the attention of the entire world. It provided what he called a coalition of conscience, inspiring his “letter from a Birmingham jail,” a manifesto of the Negro revolution. MLK planned the drive in Alabama for the registration of Negros as voters and directed the peaceful march on Washington, D.C of 250,000 people to whom he delivered his “I have a dream” speech. While in Washington, he conferred with President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. When Lyndon B. Johnson ran for president after the assassination of JFK, MLK campaigned for him.
MLK was arrested upwards of 20 times and assaulted at least four times. Named Time Magazine’s man of the year in 1963, he was awarded five honorary degrees and became a world figure in the process. At the age of 35, Martin Luther King was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. He donated the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the Civil Rights Movement. He was assassinated on April 4th, 1968 at a hotel in Memphis Tennessee, where he had been staying to help striking garbage workers.