What Did Martin Luther King Jr Do?
Martin Luther King Jr. was a prominent leader of the civil rights movement in the United States. During the late 1950s through the late 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. organized protests, proposed legislation and spoke about injustice throughout the United States.
Early Life Martin Luther King Jr. was born on Jan. 15, 1929 in rural Georgia to Martin King Sr. and Alberta Williams King. Both his father and his grandfather, A.D. Williams, worked as ministers in rural Georgia, steeping King in religious teachings from a young age. The family, which also consisted of King’s older sister, Willie Christine, and his younger brother, Alfred Daniel Williams King, was close knit and loving.
Education King entered public school in Atlanta, Georgia at age five. He became well acquainted with discrimination and racism as he attended segregated schools until graduating from high school. King attended Booker T. Washington High School. Despite being a lackluster student in primary school, he excelled in high school, skipping ninth and eleventh grades and graduating in 1944 at age 15.
He went on to attend Morehouse College, the alma mater of both his father and grandfather. After graduating in 1948, he went on to attend Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. Excelling academically, he was elected president of the student body during his time there, and graduated as valedictorian in 1951.
After graduating from Crozer, King decided to attend graduate school for a doctoral program. He was accepted to multiple schools, including Yale, and chose to attend Boston University. It was there that he met Coretta Scott, a student at the New England Conservatory School in Boston, and an aspiring singer. King and Scott married in 1953, and went on to have four children. King graduated from Boston University with his Ph.D. in 1955 at the age of 25.
“I Have a Dream” King organized a rally in the city of Birmingham, Alabama in 1953. At the rally, the city police of Birmingham became violent, turning high-pressure water hoses and police dogs on the demonstrators. King, along with many demonstrators, was jailed following the event. From jail, King wrote a letter to his supporters advocating for a policy of non-violence during demonstrations and protests. This letter worked to galvanize his followers, and inspired plans for a large rally in the nation’s capitol in August of 1963.
More than 200,000 people attended the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. At the event, King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which focused on his vision for racial equality in the United States. This rally was a landmark moment for the civil rights movement. In 1964 the Civil Rights Act was passed, which enforced desegregation of schools and other public places in the U.S. In 1964 King was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his immense contribution to the civil rights movement.
Death and Legacy On April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. was killed by a sniper on a balcony outside of a motel. His legacy of non-violent civil disobedience has lived on long after his death. He is widely recognized as one of the key leaders of the civil rights movement. King has been honored in the U.S. with multiple monuments, including one in Washington D.C. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated each year on the third Monday of January, in recognition of King’s birthday on January 15.