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
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
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.
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
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.