MLK was born January 15, 1929, in ATLANTA to parents Rev. and Mrs. MARTIN LUTHER and ALBERTA KING, Sr., and was an American pastor, activist, humanitarian, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs.
He was born Michael King but his father changed his name in honor of the German reformer Martin Luther.
In 1944, age 15, he graduated from BOOKER T. WASHINGTON SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL and then in the fall of that year, entered MOREHOUSE COLLEGE. He and his elder sister CHRISTINE KING (fFARRIS) graduated from college the same year of 1948. MLK then entered CROZER THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY in CHESTER, PA, and graduated with a BACHELOR Of DIVINITY degree in 1951. In 1954 he became pastor of the DEXTER AVENUE BAPTIST CHURCH in MONTGOMERY, AL, at the age of 25. He then matriculated at BOSTON UNIVERSITY where he received his Ph.D in SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY in 1955.
A Baptist minister, King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, serving as its first president. With the SCLC, King led an unsuccessful struggle against segregation in Albany, Georgia (the Albany Movement), in 1962, and organized nonviolent protests in Birmingham, Alabama, that attracted national attention following television news coverage of the brutal police response.
On October 14, 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolence. In 1965, he and the SCLC helped to organize the Selma to Montgomery marches and the following year, he took the movement north to Chicago to work on segregated housing. In the final years of his life, King expanded his focus to include poverty and speak against the Vietnam War, alienating many of his liberal allies with a 1967 speech titled BEYOND VIETNAM.
Rev. Dr. MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr., was planning a national occupation of Washington, D.C., to be called the Poor People’s Campaign, when he was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in MEMPHIS, TN. His death was followed by riots in many U.S. cities. Allegations that JAMES EARL RAY, the man convicted of his killing, had been framed or acted in concert with government agents have persisted in the decades after the shooting.
King was posthumously awarded the PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL Of FREEDOM and the CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL. MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr. DAY was established as a holiday in numerous cities and states beginning in 1971, and as a U.S. federal holiday in 1986. This year of 2016 marks the 30th ANNIVERSARY of the MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr. NATIONAL HOLIDAY. Hundreds of streets in the U.S. have been renamed in his honor. In addition, a county was rededicated in his honor. A memorial statue on the National Mall was opened to the public in 2011.