Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-68), American Baptist minister and civil rights leader. Born in Atlanta January 15, 1929, Martin Luther King, Jr. was educated at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, and Boston University. In 1954 he became pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, and quickly found himself thrust into the leadership of a bus boycott that lasted more than a year and ended in a U.S. Supreme Court order to desegregate buses and schools.
The experience in Montgomery inspired King to look more closely at Gandhi's nonviolent protest. In 1960 he resigned his pastorate to devote full-time leadership to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which he had helped to form in 1957. Already the most visible leader in the civil rights movement, his courageous conduct in the Birmingham march in 1963 in the face of bitter opposition further elevated his status and gained for the movement the backing of President John F. Kennedy. In the wake of Kennedy's assassination in 1963, the United States Congress passed civil rights legislation. In 1964 King was awarded the Nobel Prize. Adhering strictly to the principle of nonviolence, he organized further protests in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and other states. King was assassinated during a demonstration of support for striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, April 4, 1968.
King's books include Stride Toward Freedom, Why We Can't Wait, Strength to Love, and The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by Clayborn Carson.
[Excerpted with permission from the entry on Martin Luther King Jr. by E. Glenn Hinson, from The Upper Room Dictionary of Christian Spiritual Formation, edited by Keith Beasley-Topliffe. Copyright © 2003 by Upper Room Books®. All rights reserved.]
Image from Library of Congress.