Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Monday, Jan 18 2010 by kjfitz
Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American clergyman, activist and prominent leader in the African-American civil rights movement. His main legacy was to secure progress on civil rights in the United States, and he has become a human rights icon.

A Baptist minister, King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, serving as its first president. King's efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. There, he raised public consciousness of the civil rights movement and established himself as one of the greatest orators in U.S. history.

In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and racial discrimination through civil disobedience and other non-violent means. By the time of his death in 1968, he had refocused his efforts on ending poverty and opposing the Vietnam War, both from a religious perspective. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and Congressional Gold Medal in 2004; Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established as a U.S. national holiday in 1986.

'I Have a Dream'

Birth and Early Life

Martin Luther King, Jr., was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. He was the son of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King. King's father was born "Michael King," and Martin Luther King, Jr., was originally named "Michael King, Jr.," until the family traveled to Europe in 1934 and visited Germany. His father soon changed both of their names to Martin Luther in honor of the German Protestant leader Martin Luther.

Birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Growing up in Atlanta, King attended Booker T. Washington High School. He skipped ninth and twelfth grade, and entered Morehouse College at age fifteen without formally graduating from high school.

In 1948, he graduated from Morehouse with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology, and enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1951. King then began doctoral studies in systematic theology at Boston University and received his Doctor of Philosophy on June 5, 1955.

Life

King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama when he was twenty-five years old in 1954.

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church

In 1960 Dr. King, Jr. became a co-pastor of Ebenezer with his father, "Daddy" King. He remained in that position until his death in 1968.

Ebenezer Baptist Church Heritage Sanctuary
Death

King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968, at the age of 39. King was booked in room 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. At 6:01 p.m. on Thursday, April 4, 1968, while he was standing on the motel's second floor balcony, King was struck by a single bullet fired from a rifle.

Memory

Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site established on October 10, 1980, consists of several buildings surrounding Martin Luther King, Jr.'s boyhood home on Auburn Avenue in the Sweet Auburn historic district of Atlanta, Georgia. The original Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church where King and his father Martin Luther King, Sr. pastored, is also part of the national historic site. These places are critical components in the interpretation of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy as a leader of the American civil rights movement.

In total, the buildings included in the site make up 35 acres (0.14 km²). The visitor center contains a museum that chronicles the American civil rights movement which follows the parallel paths of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. A firehouse (Fire Station No. 6), built in 1894, served the Sweet Auburn community until 1991, and now contains a gift shop and an exhibit on desegregation in the Atlanta Fire Department. The “I Have a Dream” International World Peace Rose Garden, and a memorial tribute to Mohandas K. Gandhi. Also of interest is the "International Civil Rights Walk of Fame" which gives recognition to those courageous pioneers who sacrificed and struggled to make equality a reality for all.

Martin Luther King's Tomb at the King Center in Atlanta
King's main legacy was to secure progress on civil rights in the United States, which has enabled more Americans to reach their potential. He is frequently referenced as a human rights icon today. His name and legacy have often been invoked since his death as people have debated his likely position on various modern political issues.