Profile of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Name at birth: Michael King, Jr.Martin Luther King, Jr. was an African-American clergyman who advocated social change through non-violent means. A powerful speaker and a man of great spiritual strength, he shaped the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s before his assassination in 1968. Martin Luther King, Jr. was pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama from 1954-59. There he led blacks in the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955-56, an action inspired by the arrest of Rosa Parks when she refused to give up her seat on a public bus. Racial segregation on city buses was ruled unconstitutional in 1956; the boycott ended in success, and King had become a national figure. King returned to his home town of Atlanta, Georgia in 1959 and became co-pastor with his father of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, a position he held until his death. On the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in 1963, King organized a march on Washington, D.C. that drew 200,000 people demanding equal rights for minorities. Martin Luther King won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, becoming at the time the youngest recipient ever. His writings included Stride Toward Freedom (1958, a history of the Montgomery bus boycott), Why We Can't Wait (1963) and Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community (1967). King was shot to death in 1968 while visiting Memphis, Tennessee. James Earl Ray, a prison escapee with a shady past, confessed to the killing in March of 1969, was convicted and then sentenced to 99 years in prison. Ray later recanted but was never successful in getting a new trial and died in jail in 1998.
Martin Luther King was actually named Michael King, Jr. at birth. As noted by History.com: “In 1934, however, his father, a pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, traveled to Germany and became inspired by the Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther. As a result, King Sr. changed his own name as well as that of his 5-year-old son”… Martin Luther King married Coretta Scott on June 18, 1953. The couple had four children: Yolanda (born 1955), Martin Luther III (b. 1957), Dexter (b. 1961), and Bernice (b. 1963)… Martin Luther King graduated from Morehouse College in 1948, then attended Crozer Theological Seminary (now part of the Colgate Rochester Divinity School) and Boston University, where he earned a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology in 1955… Martin Luther King, Jr.’s younger brother, Alfred David William King (also a civil rights activist and Baptist preacher) died in a drowning accident a little more than a year after the assassination; in 1974, their mother, Alberta King, was mortally wounded when a man (later deemed mentally ill) stood up in church one Sunday morning and started shooting.
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