Martin Luther King is one the most famous leaders of the civil rights movement in the United States. His life and actions had a profound impact on American society for the better. However, despite many of the key moments of King’s life being well publicised other equally important events and his personal history are not as widely known. Here is a brief overview of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and the events that gave rise to the great civil rights leader.
Martin Luther King's Early Life
Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia on January 15th, 1929. His father Martin Luther King Sr. was also a reverend. Martin Luther King Jr’s first name was originally Michael (as was his father) however, this was changed in 1934 as King Sr. wished to honor the Protestant reformer Martin Luther. The middle of three children King was active in the church from a young age enjoying both music and singing.
It was in his youth that King would be exposed to the legalized segregation of the time and such events would have a profound impact on his view of the world. These included seeing his father standing up to sengeration and King himself losing the friendship of a white friend due to his friend’s father no longer wanting the two to interact with each other.
High School And Higher Education
In high school King was already well known for his oratory ability and sharp intellect. Aside from being on his school’s debate team he also won awards for speaking and skipped two grades. He later pursued his higher education at Morehouse College and in 1947 he decided to enter the seminary. King felt that pursuing a religious career was the best method to reach out to others and help them. King viewed himself as a very rational individual and felt as a leader in the religious community he could could focus on social matters, equality, and justice. After receiving a sociology B.A. from Morehouse he enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary and received a Bachelor’s of Divinity in 1951. King would complete his education in 1955 receiving a doctoral degree from Boston College studying systematic theology.
Marriage, Ministry, And The Civil Rights Movement
King married Coretta Scott on June 18, 1953. The couple had four children. King also became a pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church at the age of 25 in 1954. In 1955 the famous Montgomery bus boycott would occur protesting racial segregation on Montgomery’s public bus system. In 1957 King and other prominent leaders would form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to pursue civil rights reform through non violent protesting. King was a prolific writer at this time publishing many works citing both spiritual matters and social ones stressing the need for racial justice and equality.
KIng was a part of important campaigns in Albany, Birmingham, Selma, St. Augustine, and New York City. The most famous of these campaigns was the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. King’s "I Have a Dream" speech is widely regarded as one of the greatest speeches given in the history of America. King would continue his pursuit of equality and social justice including housing in Chicago, opposing the Vietnam war, and the Poor People's Campaign in 1968 to address economic inequality. King would be assassinated on March 29, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee he was only 39 years old.
Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy is vast and goes beyond even the highly important Civil Right Act of 1968. He inspired those seeking social justice and equality around the world.