Martin Luther King Junior was an African American, Baptist minister and civil rights activist born in January 15, 1929 to Martin Luther King Senior and Alberta Williams King in Atlanta (Marshall, 2002). King initially felt resentment against the whites due to the racial humiliation he and other African Americans endured from them. He suffered depression at a young and even tried to commit suicide at in his adolescent years. King attended Booker T. Washington High School where he was known for his public speaking and being a member of the debate team (Marshall, 2002). When King was 15 years old, he passed the Morehouse college entrance exams and was admitted to college where he graduated with a Bachelor of arts degree in Sociology. King had joined the ministry a year before his graduation from Morehouse in an attempt to answer his “urge to serve humanity.” (Marshall, 2002). King then attended Crozer Theological seminary and graduated with a B. Div degree in 1951 (Downing, 1986). King then proceeded to acquire a PhD in systematic theology in 1955.
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Martin Luther King became the most visible leader in the Civil rights movement and its most visible spokesman until his assassination in 1968. He led the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 after Rosa parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus for a white person. In 1956, he became the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference SCLC with which he helped organize non violent protests in: Albany against segregation, Birmingham in 1963, Washington DC where he delivered the famous “I have a dream” speech and New York. Due to his efforts King was arrested a total of 29 times (Marshall, 2002). In his later years he focused on an opposition to poverty and the Vietnam War which made him an object of FBI investigation for possible communist ties (Garrow, 1981).
Assassination And Aftermath
Martin Luther King Junior was assassinated in Memphis Tennessee on April 4 1968 while he was planning a national occupation of Washington DC. Riots followed his assassination in many cities across the country. James Earl Ray was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. Ray died in prison from hepatitis after serving 29 years of his sentence (Marshall, 2002). After his death the Civil rights act of 1968 was passed and Martin Luther King day was declared a holiday by federal law in 1986 (Marshall, 2002).
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Among his many numerous achievements, it is difficult to pinpoint one that is the most important. Having won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for combating racial inequality using non-violent resistance is notable but so are his many books including; ‘The trumpet of conscience’ and ‘Strength of love’. King can also be remembered for his influence on the Black consciousness movement and civil rights movement in South Africa. He is widely considered a National icon in the American history of liberalism and progressivism.
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