Martin, Luther

Martin, Luther

Martin, Luther, c.1748-1826, American lawyer and political leader, b. New Brunswick, N.J. He practiced law in Maryland and became the first attorney general of the state, holding office from 1778 to 1805 and again from 1818 to 1822 (although he was inactive in his last two years of office). He was a delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention but refused to sign the Constitution because he felt it violated states' rights. Martin, considered one of the nation's leading lawyers, was one of the defense counsel in the trials of Justice Samuel Chase (1805) and of Aaron Burr (1807). He was a bitter opponent of Thomas Jefferson.

See biography by P. S. Clarkson and S. R. Jett (1970).

Martin Luther King, Jr.

(born Jan. 15, 1929, Atlanta, Ga., U.S.—died April 4, 1968, Memphis, Tenn.) U.S. civil-rights leader. The son and grandson of Baptist preachers, King became an adherent of nonviolence while in college. Ordained a Baptist minister himself in 1954, he became pastor of a church in Montgomery, Ala.; the following year he received a doctorate from Boston University. He was selected to head the Montgomery Improvement Association, whose boycott efforts eventually ended the city's policies of racial segregation on public transportation. In 1957 he formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and began lecturing nationwide, urging active nonviolence to achieve civil rights for African Americans. In 1960 he returned to Atlanta to become copastor with his father of Ebenezer Baptist Church. He was arrested and jailed for protesting segregation at a lunch counter; the case drew national attention, and presidential candidate John F. Kennedy interceded to obtain his release. In 1963 King helped organize the March on Washington, an assembly of more than 200,000 protestors at which he made his famous “I have a dream” speech. The march influenced the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and King was awarded the 1964 Nobel Prize for Peace. In 1965 he was criticized from within the civil-rights movement for yielding to state troopers at a march in Selma, Ala., and for failing in the effort to change Chicago's housing segregation policies. Thereafter he broadened his advocacy, addressing the plight of the poor of all races and opposing the Vietnam War. In 1968 he went to Memphis, Tenn., to support a strike by sanitation workers; there on April 4, he was assassinated by James Earl Ray. A U.S. national holiday is celebrated in King's honour on the third Monday in January.

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(born Nov. 10, 1483, Eisleben, Saxony—died Feb. 18, 1546, Eisleben) German priest who sparked the Reformation. The son of a miner, he studied philosophy and law before entering an Augustinian monastery in 1505. He was ordained two years later and continued his theological studies at the University of Wittenberg, where he became a professor of biblical studies. He was shocked by the corruption of the clergy on a trip to Rome in 1510 and was later troubled by doubts centring on fear of divine retributive justice. His spiritual crisis was resolved when he hit on the idea of justification by faith, the doctrine that salvation is granted as a gift through God's grace. He urged reform of the Roman Catholic church, protesting the sale of indulgences and other abuses, and in 1517 he distributed to the archbishop of Mainz and several friends his Ninety-Five Theses (according to legend, Luther nailed the theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg); the theses questioned Roman Catholic teaching and called for reform. In 1521 he was excommunicated by Pope Leo IX and declared an outlaw at the Diet of Worms (see Worms, Diet of). Under the protection of the elector of Saxony, Luther took refuge in Wartburg. There he translated the Bible into German; his superbly vigorous translation has long been regarded as the greatest landmark in the history of the German language. He later returned to Wittenberg, and in 1525 he married the former nun Katherina von Bora, with whom he raised six children. Though his preaching was the principal spark that set off the Peasants' War (1524–25), his vehement denunciation of the peasants contributed to their defeat. His break with Rome led to the founding of the Lutheran Church (see Lutheranism); the Lutheran confession of faith or, Augsburg Confession, was produced with Luther's sanction by Philipp Melanchthon in 1530. Luther's writings included hymns, a liturgy, and many theological works.

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Martin Luther King, Jr.

(born Jan. 15, 1929, Atlanta, Ga., U.S.—died April 4, 1968, Memphis, Tenn.) U.S. civil-rights leader. The son and grandson of Baptist preachers, King became an adherent of nonviolence while in college. Ordained a Baptist minister himself in 1954, he became pastor of a church in Montgomery, Ala.; the following year he received a doctorate from Boston University. He was selected to head the Montgomery Improvement Association, whose boycott efforts eventually ended the city's policies of racial segregation on public transportation. In 1957 he formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and began lecturing nationwide, urging active nonviolence to achieve civil rights for African Americans. In 1960 he returned to Atlanta to become copastor with his father of Ebenezer Baptist Church. He was arrested and jailed for protesting segregation at a lunch counter; the case drew national attention, and presidential candidate John F. Kennedy interceded to obtain his release. In 1963 King helped organize the March on Washington, an assembly of more than 200,000 protestors at which he made his famous “I have a dream” speech. The march influenced the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and King was awarded the 1964 Nobel Prize for Peace. In 1965 he was criticized from within the civil-rights movement for yielding to state troopers at a march in Selma, Ala., and for failing in the effort to change Chicago's housing segregation policies. Thereafter he broadened his advocacy, addressing the plight of the poor of all races and opposing the Vietnam War. In 1968 he went to Memphis, Tenn., to support a strike by sanitation workers; there on April 4, he was assassinated by James Earl Ray. A U.S. national holiday is celebrated in King's honour on the third Monday in January.

Learn more about King, Martin Luther, Jr. with a free trial on Britannica.com.

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