Martin Luther King, Jr

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15th  in 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. He was the first son of a black middle class family and was named after his father, Martin Luther King, Sr.

He was an excellent student and was in college to become minister and made his doctoral degree in Boston College.

In 1953 King married Coretta Scott. They have four children : Yolanda Denise, Martin Luther III, Dexter and Bernice Albertine.

His work with the civil rights movement began on December 5th in 1955, when a black seamstress, Rosa Parks, refused to give up her seat to a white person on a city bus.
Black residents started a bus boycott and elected Martin Luther King, Jr. as president of a new organisation called Montgomery Improvement Association. The purpose of this was to help blacks gain equal rights. The boycott continued all the way through 1956, and Martin Luther King, Jr. gained national attention for his courage and his great skill in writing and presenting his speeches. In that same year his home in Montgomery was bombed.

He was arrested and later convicted, along with other boycott leaders, for interfering with the bus company's operations. This boycott failed because the city bus company stopped service to black neighbourhoods. Although the city government tried to stop actions like these, buses in Montgomery were desegregated in December 1956This was the spark that started the civil rights movement.

The Civil Rights Movement

Among other things, Martin Luther King, Jr. fought to gain voting rights for blacks. In southern states, black people had to take a so-called 'literacy test' before they were allowed to vote. The standard result was 'unable'. This was because these tests contained questions that were impossible to answer. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his supporters wanted to change this. If white people are allowed to vote, why shouldn't black people, they thought. Blacks and whites should have equal rights.

Besides the bus boycott, Martin Luther King Jr. and other supporters of his organisation, held freedom marches and demonstrations for voting rights all over the southern United States. They also held 'sit-ins' at lunch counters in the south, where only white people were served. These demonstrations were always peaceful, because Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted them that way. One of the largest demonstrations, with 250,000 people, was held at the Lincoln Memorial (this is a very large monument with a statute of President Abraham Lincoln in Washington DC) in 1963. This is where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous 'I Have a Dream' speech.

In 1959 he toured India, to learn about the non-violent strategies of Mahatma Ghandi.

In1964 he was named Time magazine's Man of the Year and also received the Nobel Peace Prize.

The assassination

On April 4th, 1968. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot to death while standing on the balcony in front of his room at the Lorraine Motel. in Memphis Tennessee, where he planned to give a speech at a garbage workers' strike

The governor of Tennessee ordered 4000 National Guard troops into Memphis to hunt for the killer. Until now it still isn't clear who actually shot him. The police arrested a man named James Earl Ray, whose fingerprints they had found on the rifle. James Earl Ray was tried and convicted of murdering Martin Luther King, Jr. He was sentenced to 99 years in prison. He promised until his death, that he had nothing to do with the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. The King Family believed Ray and asked for a new trial, but he died of a liver disease before there could be a new one

His Legacy

It was because of Martin Luther King Jr.'s work that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. This act said that no one was allowed to discriminate against anyone else because of race or religion. All over the United States streets are named for Martin Luther King, Jr. Most black people still think he was their greatest leader.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday

In 1986 his birthday became a National holiday in the USA.

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