Background and family
King was born in Atlanta, Georgia to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr.
and Alberta Williams King. (Birth records list King's first name as
Michael, apparently due to some confusion on the part of the family
doctor regarding the true name of his father, who was known as Mike
throughout his childhood.) He graduated from Morehouse College with
a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology in 1948. His application to Yale
Divinity School was rejected, and he graduated from Crozer Theological
Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania  and a Bachelor of Divinity in
1951. He received his Ph.D. in Systematic theology from Boston University
in 1955. Later, however, scholars at the King Papers project found that
King plagiarized portions of his doctoral dissertation and academic
papers, although Boston University did not revoke King's degree. For
further information see authorship issues.
King married Coretta Scott on June 18, 1953. The wedding ceremony took
place in Scott's parents' house in Marion, Alabama, and was performed
by King's father.
King and Scott had four children:
• Yolanda Denise (November 17, 1955, Montgomery, Alabama)
• Martin Luther III (October 23, 1957, Montgomery, Alabama)
• Dexter Scott (January 30, 1961, Atlanta, Georgia)
• Bernice Albertine (March 28, 1963, Atlanta, Georgia)
The four children all have one thing in common: They have followed their
father's footsteps as civil rights activists.
Civil rights activism
In 1954, King became the pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church
in Montgomery, Alabama. He was a leader of the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott
which began when Rosa Parks refused to comply with Jim Crow law and
surrender her seat to a white man. The boycott lasted for 381 days.
The situation became so tense that King's house was bombed. King was
arrested during this campaign, which ended with a United States Supreme
Court decision outlawing racial segregation on intrastate buses.
Following the campaign, King was instrumental in the founding of the
Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, a group created
to harness the moral authority and organizing power of black churches
to conduct nonviolent protests in the service of civil rights reform.
King continued to dominate the organization until his death. The organization's
nonviolent principles were criticized by the younger, more radical blacks
and challenged by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)
then headed by James Foreman.
The SCLC derived its membership principally from black communities associated
with Baptist churches. King was an adherent of the philosophies of nonviolent
civil disobedience used successfully in India by Mahatma Gandhi, and
he applied this philosophy to the protests organized by the SCLC. King
correctly identified that organized, nonviolent protest against the
racist system of southern segregation known as Jim Crow would lead to
extensive media coverage of the struggle for black equality and voting
rights. Indeed, journalistic accounts and televised footage of the daily
deprivation and indignities suffered by southern blacks, and of segregationist
violence and harassment of civil rights workers and marchers, produced
a wave of sympathetic public opinion that made the Civil Rights Movement
the single most important issue in American politics in the early 1960s.
King is perhaps most famous for his "I Have a Dream" speech,
given in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington
for Jobs and Freedom
King organized and led marches for blacks' right to vote, desegregation,
fair hiring, and other basic civil rights. Most of these rights were
successfully enacted into United States law with the passage of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
King and the SCLC applied the principles of nonviolent protest with
great success by strategically choosing the method of protest and the
places in which protests were carried out in often dramatic stand-offs
with segregationist authorities. Sometimes these confrontations turned
violent. King and the SCLC were instrumental in the unsuccessful protest
movement in Albany, in 1961–1962, where divisions within the black
community and the canny, low-key response by local government defeated
efforts; in the Birmingham protests in the summer of 1963; and in the
protest in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1964. King and the SCLC joined
forces with SNCC in Selma, Alabama, in December 1964, where SNCC had
been working on voter registration for a number of months.
King and SCLC,
in partial collaboration with SNCC, then attempted to organise a march
from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery, for March 25, 1965. The
first attempt to march on March 7, was aborted due to mob and police
violence against the demonstrators. This day since has become known
as Bloody Sunday. Bloody Sunday was a major turning point in the effort
to gain public support for the Civil Rights Movement, the clearest demonstration
up to that time of the dramatic potential of King's nonviolence strategy.
King, however, was not present. After meeting with President Lyndon
B. Johnson, he had attempted to delay the march until March 8, but the
march was carried out against his wishes and without his presence by
local civil rights workers. The footage of the police brutality against
the protestors was broadcast extensively across the nation and aroused
a national sense of public outrage.
The second attempt
at the march on March 9 was ended when King stopped the procession at
the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the outskirts of Selma, an action which
he seemed to have negotiated with city leaders beforehand. This unexpected
action aroused the surprise and anger of many within the local movement.
The march finally went ahead fully on March 25, with the agreement and
support of President Johnson, and it was during this march that Willie
Ricks coined the phrase "Black Power" (widely credited to
King, representing SCLC, was among the leaders of the so-called "Big
Six" civil rights organizations who were instrumental in the organization
of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. The other leaders
and organizations comprising the Big Six were: Roy Wilkins, NAACP; Whitney
Young, Jr., Urban League; A. Philip Randolph, Brotherhood of Sleeping
Car Porters; John Lewis, SNCC; and James Farmer of the Congress of Racial
Equality (CORE). For King, this role was another which courted controversy,
as he was one of the key figures who acceded to the wishes of President
John F. Kennedy in changing the focus of the march. Kennedy initially
opposed the march outright, because he was concerned it would negatively
impact the drive for passage of civil rights legislation, but the organizers
were firm that the march would proceed.
The march originally was conceived as an event to dramatize the desperate
condition of blacks in the South and a very public opportunity to place
organizers' concerns and grievances squarely before the seat of power
in the nation's capital. Organizers intended to excoriate and then challenge
the federal government for its failure to safeguard the civil rights
and physical safety of civil rights workers and blacks, generally, in
the South. However, the group acquiesced to presidential pressure and
influence, and the event ultimately took on a far less strident tone.
As a result, some civil rights activists who felt it presented an inaccurate,
sanitized pageant of racial harmony; Malcolm X called it the "Farce
on Washington," and members of the Nation of Islam who attended
the march faced a temporary suspension.
The march did, however, make specific demands: an end to racial segregation
in public school; meaningful civil rights legislation, including a law
prohibiting racial discrimination in employment; protection of civil
rights workers from police brutality; a $2 minimum wage for all workers;
and self-government for the District of Columbia, then governed by congressional
Despite tensions, the march was a resounding success. More than a quarter
of a million people of diverse ethnicities attended the event, sprawling
from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial onto the National Mall and around
the reflecting pool. At the time, it was the largest gathering of protestors
in Washington history. King's I Have a Dream speech electrified the
crowd. It is regarded, along with President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address,
as one of the finest speeches in the history of American oratory.
Throughout his career of service, King wrote and spoke frequently, drawing
on his long experience as a preacher. His "Letter from Birmingham
Jail", written in 1963, is a passionate statement of his crusade
for justice. On October 14, 1964, King became the youngest recipient
of the Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to him for leading non-violent
resistance to end racial prejudice in the United States.
Starting in 1965,
King began to express doubts about the United States' role in the Vietnam
War. On April 4, 1967— exactly one year before his death—
King spoke out strongly against the US's role in the war, insisting
that the US was in Vietnam "to occupy it as an American colony"
and calling the US "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world
today." But he also argued that the country needed larger moral
A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast
of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across
the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums
of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits
out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and
say: "This is not just." 
King was long hated by many white southern segregationists, but this
speech turned the more mainstream media against him. TIME called the
speech "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio
Hanoi (a propaganda radio station run by the North Vietnamese Army during
the Vietnam War)", and the Washington Post declared that King had
"diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."
The speech was a reflection of King's evolving political advocacy in
his later years. He began to speak of the need for fundamental changes
in the political and economic life of the nation. Toward the end of
his life, King more frequently expressed his opposition to the war and
his desire to see a redistribution of resources to correct racial and
economic injustice. Though his public language was guarded, so as to
avoid being linked to communism by his political enemies, in private
he sometimes spoke of his support for democratic socialism ):
You can't talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without
talking about billions of dollars. You can't talk about ending the slums
without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You're really
tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with
folk then. You are messing with captains of industry.... Now this means
that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that
we are saying that something is wrong... with capitalism.... There must
be a better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward
a democratic socialism. (Frogmore, S.C. November 14, 1966. Speech in
front of his staff.)
In 1968, King and
the SCLC organized the "Poor People's Campaign" to address
issues of economic justice. The campaign culminated in a march on Washington,
D.C. demanding economic aid to the poorest communities of the United
On April 3, 1968, King prophetically told a euphoric crowd:
It really doesn't matter what happens now.... some began to... talk
about the threats that were out -- what would happen to me from some
of our sick white brothers.... Like anybody, I would like to live a
long life. Longevity has its place, but I'm not concerned about that
now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the
mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the Promised Land. I may
not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as
a people, will get to the Promised Land. And so I'm happy tonight. I'm
not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have
seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
King was assassinated
the next evening, April 4, 1968, at 6:01pm, on the balcony of the Lorraine
Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, while preparing to lead a local march in
support of the heavily black Memphis sanitation workers' union which
was on strike at the time. Friends inside the motel room heard the shot
fired and ran to the balcony to find King shot in the jaw. He was pronounced
dead several hours later. The assassination led to a nationwide wave
of riots in more than 60 cities. Four days later, President Johnson
declared a national day of mourning for their lost civil rights leader.
A crowd of 300,000 attended his funeral that same day.
Escaped convict James Earl Ray confessed to the shooting on March 10,
1969, (though he recanted this confession three days later) and was
sentenced to 99 years in prison. In 1999, Coretta Scott King, King's
widow (also a civil rights leader), along with the rest of King's family
won a wrongful death civil trial against Loyd Jowers, who claimed to
have received $100,000 to arrange King's assassination. The jury of
six whites and six blacks found that "governmental agencies were
parties" to the assassination plot. The King family believes
Ray had nothing to do with King's death.
Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was with King at the time of his death, noted
"The fact is there were saboteurs to disrupt the march. [And] within
our own organization, we found a very key person who was on the government
payroll. So infiltration within, saboteurs from without and the press
attacks. ... I will never believe that James Earl Ray had the motive,
the money and the mobility to have done it himself. Our government was
very involved in setting the stage for and I think the escape route
for James Earl Ray."  King biographer David Garrow disagrees
with William Pepper's claims that the government killed King. He is
supported by King assassination author Gerald Posner. 
King had a mutually
antagonistic relationship with the Federal Bureau of Investigations
(FBI), especially its director, J. Edgar Hoover. The FBI began tracking
King and the SCLC in 1961. Its investigations were largely superficial
until 1962, when it learned that one of King's most trusted advisers
was Stanley Levison. Levison was a man whom the bureau suspected of
involvement with the Communist Party, USA, to which another key King
lieutenant, Hunter Pitts O'Dell, was also linked by sworn testimony
before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). The Bureau
placed wiretaps on Levison and King's home and office phones, and bugged
King's rooms in hotels as he traveled across the country. The Bureau
also informed then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy and then-President
John F. Kennedy, both of whom unsuccessfully tried to persuade King
to dissociate himself from Levison. For his part, King adamantly denied
having any connections to Communism, stating at one point that "there
are as many Communists in this freedom movement as there are Eskimos
in Florida"—to which Hoover responded by calling King "the
most notorious liar in the country."
The attempt to smear King as a communist was in keeping with the feeling
of many segregationists that blacks in the South were happy with their
lot, but had been stirred up by "communists" and "outside
agitators." Movement leaders countered that voter disenfranchisement,
lack of education and employment opportunities, discrimination and vigilante
violence were the reasons for the strength of the Civil Rights Movement,
and that blacks had the intelligence and motivation to organize on their
HUAC later was discredited for its coercion of witnesses and the manner
in which it sought to implicate individuals with vague and often sweeping
accusations and assumptions of guilt by association. The Committee was
renamed in 1969 and eventually abolished.
Later, the focus of the Bureau's investigations shifted to attempting
to "discredit" King through revelations regarding his private
life. FBI surveillance of King, some of it since made public, demonstrates
that he also engaged in numerous extramarital sexual affairs. Accounts
of such behavior also have been provided by King's associates, including
close friend Ralph Abernathy. The Bureau distributed reports regarding
such affairs to the executive branch, friendly reporters, potential
coalition partners and funding sources of the SCLC, and King's family.
The Bureau also sent anonymous letters to King threatening to reveal
information if he didn't cease his civil rights work.
Finally, the Bureau's investigation shifted away from King's personal
life to intelligence and counterintelligence work on the direction of
the SCLC and the Black Power movement.
January 31, 1977, in the cases of Bernard S. Lee v. Clarence M. Kelley,
et al. and Southern Christian Leadership Conference v. Clarence M. Kelley,
et al. United States District Judge John Lewis Smith, Jr., ordered that
all known copies of the recorded tapes, and transcripts resulting from
the FBI's microphonic surveillance of King, between 1963 and 1968, be
sealed and made secret within the National Archives until the year 2027.
Across from the Lorraine Motel, next to the building that James Earl
Ray was hiding in, was an abandoned fire station. The FBI was assigned
to observe King during the appearance he was planning to make on the
Lorraine Motel balcony later that day, and utilized the fire station
as a makeshift base. Using papered-over windows with peepholes cut into
them, the agents watched over the scene until MLK was shot. Immediately
following the shooting, all six agents rushed out of the station and
were the first people to administer first-aid to Dr. King. Their presence
nearby has led to speculation that the FBI was involved in the assassination.
Beginning in the
1980's, questions have been raised regarding the authorship of King's
dissertation, other papers, and his speeches. (Though not widely known
during his lifetime, most of his published writings during his civil
rights career were ghostwritten, or at least heavily adapted from his
speeches.) Concerns about his doctoral dissertation at Boston University
led to a formal inquiry by university officials, which concluded that
approximately a third of it had been plagiarized from a paper written
by an earlier graduate student, but it was decided not to revoke his
degree, as the paper still "makes an intelligent contribution to
scholarship." Such uncredited "textual appropriation,"
as King scholar Clayborne Carson has labeled it, was apparently a habit
of King's begun earlier in his academic career. It is also a feature
of many of his speeches, which borrowed heavily from those of other
preachers and white radio evangelists. While some political opponents
have used these findings to criticize King, most of the scholars in
question have sought to put them into broader context; for example,
Keith Miller, probably the foremost expert on language-borrowing in
King's oratory, has argued that the practice falls within the tradition
of African-American folk preaching, and should not necessarily be labeled
Since his death,
King's reputation has grown to become one of the most revered names
in American history to the point where he is compared with Abraham Lincoln.
Supporters of this idea remark that both were leaders credited with
strongly advancing human rights against poor odds in a nation divided
against itself on the issue - and were assassinated in part for it.
Even posthumous accusations of marital infidelity and academic plagiarism
have not seriously dented his public esteem, but merely reinforced the
image of a very human hero and leader.
In 1980, King's boyhood home in Atlanta and several other nearby buildings
were declared as the National Historic Site. In 1986, a U.S. national
holiday was established in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., which is
called Martin Luther King Day. It is observed on the third Monday of
January each year, around the time of King's birthday. On January 18,
1993, for the first time, Martin Luther King Day was officially observed
in all 50 U.S. states. In addition, many U.S. cities have officially
renamed one of their streets to honor King.
(January 15, 1929-April
4, 1968) was born Michael Luther King, Jr., but later had his name changed
to Martin. His grandfather began the family's long tenure as pastors
of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, serving from 1914 to 1931;
his father has served from then until the present, and from 1960 until
his death Martin Luther acted as co-pastor. Martin Luther attended segregated
public schools in Georgia, graduating from high school at the age of
fifteen; he received the B. A. degree in 1948 from Morehouse College,
a distinguished Negro institution of Atlanta from which both his father
and grandfather had been graduated. After three years of theological
study at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania where he was elected
president of a predominantly white senior class, he was awarded the
B.D. in 1951. With a fellowship won at Crozer, he enrolled in graduate
studies at Boston University, completing his residence for the doctorate
in 1953 and receiving the degree in 1955 In Boston he met and married
Coretta Scott, a young woman of uncommon intellectual and artistic attainments.
Two sons and two daughters were born into the family.
In 1954, Martin
Luther King accepted the pastorale of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church
in Montgomery, Alabama. Always a strong worker for civil rights for
members of his race, King was, by this time, a member of the executive
committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People, the leading organization of its kind in the nation. He was ready,
then, early in December, 1955, to accept the leadership of the first
great Negro nonviolent demonstration of contemporary times in the United
States, the bus boycott described by Gunnar Jahn in his presentation
speech in honor of the laureate. The boycott lasted 382 days. On December
21, 1956, after the Supreme Court of the United States had declared
unconstitutional the laws requiring segregation on buses, Negroes and
whites rode the buses as equals. During these days of boycott, King
was arrested, his home was bombed, he was subjected to personal abuse,
but at the same time he emerged as a Negro leader of the first rank.
In 1957 he was elected
president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization
formed to provide new leadership for the now burgeoning civil rights
movement. The ideals for this organization he took from Christianity;
its operational techniques from Gandhi. In the eleven-year period between
1957 and 1968, King traveled over six million miles and spoke over twenty-five
hundred times, appearing wherever there was injustice, protest, and
action; and meanwhile he wrote five books as well as numerous articles.
In these years, he led a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama, that
caught the attention of the entire world, providing what he called a
coalition of conscience. and inspiring his "Letter from a Birmingham
Jail", a manifesto of the Negro revolution; he planned the drives
in Alabama for the registration of Negroes as voters; he directed the
peaceful march on Washington, D.C., of 250,000 people to whom he delivered
his address, "l Have a Dream", he conferred with President
John F. Kennedy and campaigned for President Lyndon B. Johnson; he was
arrested upwards of twenty times and assaulted at least four times;
he was awarded five honorary degrees; was named Man of the Year by Time
magazine in 1963; and became not only the symbolic leader of American
blacks but also a world figure.
At the age of thirty-five,
, was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When
notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the
prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.
On the evening of
April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis,
Tennessee, where he was to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking
garbage workers of that city, he was assassinated.
Dr. was a vital
figure of the modern era. His lectures and dialogues stirred the concern
and sparked the conscience of a generation. The movements and marches
he led brought significant changes in the fabric of American life through
his courage and selfless devotion. This devotion gave direction to thirteen
years of civil rights activities. His charismatic leadership inspired
men and women, young and old, in this nation and around the world.
concept of “somebodiness,” which symbolized the celebration
of human worth and the conquest of subjugation, gave black and poor
people hope and a sense of dignity. His philosophy of nonviolent direct
action, and his strategies for rational and non-destructive social change,
galvanized the conscience of this nation and reordered its priorities.
His wisdom, his words, his actions, his commitment, and his dream for
a new way of life are intertwined with the American experience.
born at noon on Tuesday, January 15, 1929 at the family home, 501 Auburn
Avenue, N.E., Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Charles Johnson was the attending
physician. was the first son and second child born to the Reverend Martin
Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King. Also born to the Kings were
Christine, now Mrs. Isaac Farris, Sr., and the Reverend Alfred Daniel
Williams King. The Reverend A.D. King is now deceased.
At the age of five, began school, before reaching the legal age of six,
at the Yonge Street Elementary School in Atlanta. When his age was discovered,
he was not permitted to continue in school and did not resume his education
until he was six. Following Yonge School, he was enrolled in David T.
Howard Elementary School. He also attended the Atlanta University Laboratory
School and Booker T. Washington High School. Because of his high scores
on the college entrance examinations in his junior year of high school,
he advanced to Morehouse College without formal graduation from Booker
T. Washington. Having skipped both the ninth and twelfth grades, Dr.
King entered Morehouse at the age of fifteen.
In 1948, he graduated from Morehouse College with a B.A. degree in Sociology.
That fall he enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania.
While attending Crozer, he also studied at the University of Pennsylvania.
He was elected President of the Senior Class and delivered the valedictory
address. He won the Peral Plafkner Award as the most outstanding student,
and he received the J. Lewis Crozer Fellowship for graduate study at
a university of his choice. He was awarded a Bachelor of Divinity degree
from Crozer in 1951.
In September of 1951, began doctoral studies in Systematic Theology
at Boston University. He also studied at Harvard University. His dissertation,
“A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul
Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman,” was completed in 1955, and the
Ph.D. degree was awarded on June 5, 1955.
King entered the
Christian ministry and was ordained in February 1948 at the age of nineteen
at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia. Following his ordination,
he became Assistant Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church. Upon completion
of his studies at Boston University, he accepted the call of Dexter
Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. He was the pastor of Dexter
Avenue from September 1954 to November 1959, when he resigned to move
to Atlanta to direct the activities of the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference. From 1960 until his death in 1968, he was co-pastor with
his father at Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Dr. King was a pivotal figure in the Civil Rights Movement. He was elected
President of the Montgomery Improvement Association, the organization
that was responsible for the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott from
1955 to 1956 (381 days). He was arrested thirty times for his participation
in civil rights activities. He was a founder and president of the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference from 1957 to 1968. He was also Vice
President of the National Sunday School and Baptist Teaching Union Congress
of the National Baptist Convention. He was a member of several national
and local boards of directors and served on the boards of trustees of
numerous institutions and agencies. Dr. King was elected to membership
in several learned societies including the prestigious American Academy
of Arts and Sciences.
Dr. King was shot while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel
in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. Dr. King was in Memphis to help
lead sanitation workers in a protest against low wages and intolerable
working conditions. James Earl Ray was arrested in London, England on
June 8, 1968, and returned to Memphis, Tennessee on July 19, 1969 to
stand trial for the assassination of Dr. King. On March 9, 1969, before
coming to trial, he entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to ninety-nine
years in the Tennessee State Penitentiary.
On December 8, 1999, a jury of twelve citizens of Memphis, Shelby County,
TN concluded in Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King, III, Bernice
King, Dexter Scott King and Yolanda King Vs. Loyd Jowers and Other Unknown
Conspirators that Loyd Jowers and governmental agencies including the
City of Memphis, the State of Tennessee, and the federal government
were party to the conspiracy to assassinate Dr.
Dr. King’s funeral services were held on April 9, 1968 at Ebenezer
Baptist Church and on the campus of Morehouse College, with the President
of the United State proclaiming a day of mourning and flags being flown
at half-staff. The area where Dr. King is entombed is located on Freedom
Plaza and is surrounded by the Freedom Hall Complex of the Historic
Site. The site is a 23-acre area was listed as a National Historic Landmark
on May 5, 1977 and was made a National Historic Site on October 10,
1980 by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
In recent years, events in the lives of the King family have continued
to reflect the tragedy and the triumph so uniquely combined in Dr. King’s
own life and is intrinsic, perhaps, in the lives of all dedicated persons
the world over.
Just a little more than a year after was killed, his younger brother,
Alfred Daniel, died in a tragic accident at his home in Atlanta. Funeral
services were held at Ebenezer Baptist Church on July 24, 1969, where
Alfred Daniel had served as co-pastor.
On Sunday, June 30, 1974, Mrs. Alberta Williams King, the mother of
Dr. , was shot and killed as she sat at the organ in the Ebenezer Baptist
Church in Atlanta. Again, through an act of violence, there ended a
life that was totally nonviolent, a life that was thoroughly Christian,
a life that reflected love for all persons and unselfish service to
humankind. Again, the indomitable faith of the King family was put to
the test, and again love prevailed amid the greatest sadness. The Rev.
Martin Luther King, Sr., bereft by the violent deaths of his two sons
and now by the equally tragic death of his devoted wife, could still
say – and did say – at her funeral service on July 3, “I
cannot hate any man.”
In 1975, the year following his wife’s death, the Rev. Martin
Luther King, Sr. resigned his forty-four year pastorate at Ebenezer,
passing on the active leadership of the church to the young and inspired
Dr. Joseph L. Roberts, Jr. At his retirement banquet on August 1, 1975,
however, “Daddy King” made it clear – as if anyone
could have thought otherwise – that his resignation did not mean
his retirement from the full and active life that has described his
long career. This “Giant of a Man,” as he was acclaimed
on that memorable evening, continued to work and to speak and to use
the gifts with which the Lord had endowed him in the loving service
of others. Among the Rev. King, Sr.’s many accomplishments is
the completion of his one luxury, the publication of his autobiography,
Daddy King. Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. died on November 11, 1984 of
a heart attack at Crawford W. Long Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. He
was 84 years of age. Funeral services were held on November 14, 1984.
1929 Born on at
noon on January 15, 1929.
Parents: The Reverend and Mrs. Martin Luther King, Sr.
1944 Graduated from Booker T. Washington High School and was admitted
to Morehouse College at the age of 15. 1948 Graduates from Morehouse
College and enters Crozer Theological Seminary.
Ordained to the Baptist ministry, February 25, 1948, at the age 19.
1951 Enters Boston University for graduate studies.1953 Marries Coretta
Scott and settles in Montgomery, Alabama.
1955 Received Doctorate of Philosophy in Systematic Theology from Boston
University, Boston, Massachusetts on June 5, 1955.
Joins the bus boycott after Rosa Parks was arrested on December 1. On
December 5, he is elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association,
making him the official spokesman for the boycott.
1956 On November 13, the Supreme Court rules that bus segregation is
illegal, ensuring victory for the boycott.
1957 King forms the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to fight
segregation and achieve civil rights. On May 17, Dr. King speaks to
a crowd of 15,000 in Washington, D.C.
1958 The U.S. Congress passed the first Civil Rights Act since reconstruction.
King's first book, Stride Toward Freedom, is published.
On a speaking tour,
is nearly killed when stabbed by an assailant in Harlem. Met with President
Dwight D. Eisenhower, along with Roy Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph, and
Lester Grange on problems affecting black Americans.
1959 Visited India to study Mohandas Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolence.
Resigns from pastoring
the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church to concentrate on civil rights full
time. He moved to Atlanta to direct the activities of the Southern Christian
1960 Becomes copastor with his father at the Ebenezer Baptist Church
in Atlanta, Georgia.
Lunch counter sit-ins began in Greensboro, North Carolina. In Atlanta,
King is arrested during a sit-in waiting to be served at a restaurant.
He is sentenced to four months in jail, but after intervention by John
Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, he is released.
Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee founded to coordinate protests
at Shaw University, Raleigh, North Carolina. 1961 In November, the Interstate
Commerce Commission bans segregation in interstate travel due to work
of and the Freedom Riders.
Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) began first Freedom Ride through
the South, in a Greyhound bus, after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed
segregation in interstate transportation.
1962 During the unsuccessful Albany, Georgia movement, King is arrested
on July 27 and jailed.
1963 On Good Friday, April 12, King is arrested with Ralph Abernathy
by Police Commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connor for demonstrating
without a permit.
On April 13, the
Birmingham campaign is launched. This would prove to be the turning
point in the war to end desegregation in the South.
During the eleven
days he spent in jail, MLK writes his famous Letter from Birmingham
On May 10, the Birmingham
agreement is announced. The stores, restaurants, and schools will be
desegregated, hiring of blacks implemented, and charges dropped.
On June 23, MLK
leads 125,000 people on a Freedom Walk in Detroit.
The March on Washington
held August 28 is the largest civil rights demonstration in history
with nearly 250,000 people in attendance.
At the march, King
makes his famous I Have a Dream speech.
On November 22,
President Kennedy is assassinated. 1964 On January 3, King appears on
the cover of Time magazine as its Man of the Year.
King attends the
signing ceremony of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at the White House
on July 2.
During the summer,
King experiences his first hurtful rejection by black people when he
is stoned by Black Muslims in Harlem.
King is awarded
the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10. Dr. King is the youngest person
to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for Peace at age 35.
1965 On February 2, King is arrested in Selma, Alabama during a voting
Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act into law, turns to socioeconomic
1966 On January 22, King moves into a Chicago slum tenement to attract
attention to the living conditions of the poor.
In June, King and
others begin the March Against Fear through the South.
On July 10, King
initiates a campaign to end discrimination in housing, employment, and
schools in Chicago.
1967 The Supreme Court upholds a conviction of MLK by a Birmingham court
for demonstrating without a permit. King spends four days in Birmingham
On November 27,
King announces the inception of the Poor People's Campaign focusing
on jobs and freedom for the poor of all races.
1968 King announces that the Poor People's Campaign will culminate in
a March on Washington demanding a $12 billion Economic Bill of Rights
guaranteeing employment to the able-bodied, incomes to those unable
to work, and an end to housing discrimination.
Dr. King marches
in support of sanitation workers on strike in Memphis, Tennessee.
On March 28, King
lead a march that turns violent. This was the first time one of his
events had turned violent.
Delivered I've Been
to the Mountaintop speech.
At sunset on April 4, is fatally shot while standing on the balcony
of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.
There are riots
and disturbances in 130 American cities. There were twenty thousand
King's funeral on
April 9 is an international event.