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Biography of Martin Luther King Jr.

Timeline Map of Martin Luther King Jr
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Early LifeConferenceAssassinationTimeline
EducationBirmingham MovementBooks Nobel Peace Prize
Marriage I have a Dream" SpeechAwards Facts
Infographic on Martin Luther King Jr. Martin Luther King Day    



Martin Luther King Jr Timeline

15 JanuaryMichael King, later known as Martin Luther King, Jr., is born at 501 Auburn Ave. in Atlanta, Georgia.
Activities in Year 1941
SummerThe King family -- Martin Luther King, Sr. (Daddy King), Alberta Williams King, Willie Christine King, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Alfred Daniel Williams King (known as A. D. King) -- moves from 501 Auburn Avenue to 193 Boulevard in Atlanta.
Activities in Year 1944
20 SeptemberKing begins his freshman year at Morehouse College in Atlanta.
Activities in Year 1946
6 AugustThe Atlanta Constitution publishes King’s letter to the editor stating that black people "are entitled to the basic rights and opportunities of American citizens."
Activities in Year 1948
25 FebruaryKing is ordained and appointed assistant pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
8 JuneKing receives his bachelor of arts degree in sociology from Morehouse College.
14 SeptemberKing begins his studies at Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania.
Activities in Year 1951
6-8 MayKing graduates from Crozer with a bachelor of divinity degree, delivering the valedictory address at commencement.
13 SeptemberKing begins his graduate studies in systematic theology at Boston University.
Activities in Year 1953
18 JuneKing and Coretta Scott are married at the Scott home near Marion, Alabama.
Activities in Year 1954
1 SeptemberKing begins his pastorate at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.
Activities in Year 1955
5 JuneKing is awarded his doctorate in systematic theology from Boston University.
17 NovemberYolanda Denise King, the Kings’ first child, is born.
1 DecemberRosa Parks is arrested for refusing to vacate her seat and move to the rear of a city bus in Montgomery to make way for a white passenger. Jo Ann Robinson and other Women’s Political Council members mimeograph thousands of leaflets calling for a one-day boycott of the city’s buses on Monday, 5 December.
5 DecemberAt a mass meeting at Holt Street Baptist Church, the Montgomery Improvement Association(MIA) is formed. King becomes its president.
Activities in Year 1956
27 JanuaryAccording to King’s later account in Stride Toward Freedom, he receives a threatening phone call late in the evening, prompting a spiritual revelation that fills him with strength to carry on in spite of persecution.
30 JanuaryAt 9:15 p.m., while King speaks at a mass meeting, his home is bombed. His wife and daughter are not injured. Later King addresses an angry crowd that gathers outside the house, pleading for nonviolence.
13 NovemberThe U.S. Supreme Court affirms the lower court opinion in Browder v. Gayle declaring Montgomery and Alabama bus segregation laws unconstitutional.
21 DecemberMontgomery City Lines resumes full service on all routes. King is among the first passengers to ride the buses in an integrated fashion.
Activities in Year 1957
10-11 JanuarySouthern black ministers meet in Atlanta to share strategies in the fight against segregation. King is named chairman of the Southern Negro Leaders Conference on Transportation and Nonviolent Integration (later known as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, SCLC).
18 FebruaryKing appears on the cover of Time magazine.
6 MarchKing attends the independence celebrations of the new nation of Ghana in West Africa and meets with Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah.
17 MayAt the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., King delivers his first national address, "Give Us The Ballot," at the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom.
13 JuneKing and Ralph D. Abernathy meet with Vice President Richard M. Nixon and issue a statement on their meeting.
23 OctoberCoretta King gives birth to their second child, Martin, III.
Activities in Year 1958
23 JuneKing and other civil rights leaders meet with President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington.
17 SeptemberKing’s first book Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story is published.
20 SeptemberDuring a book signing at Blumstein’s Department Store in Harlem, New York, King is stabbed by Izola Ware Curry. He is rushed to Harlem Hospital where a team of doctors successfully remove a seven-inch letter opener from his chest.
Activities in Year 1959
3 FebruaryKing embarks on a month-long visit to India where he meets with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and many of Gandhi’s followers.
Activities in Year 1960
1 FebruaryKing moves from Montgomery to Atlanta to devote more time to SCLC and the freedom struggle. He becomes assistant pastor to his father at Ebenezer Baptist Church.
25-28 MayKing is found not guilty of tax fraud by a white jury in Montgomery.
23 JuneKing meets privately in New York with Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy.
19 OctoberKing is arrested during a sit-in demonstration at Rich’s department store in Atlanta. He is sentenced to four months hard labor for violating a suspended sentence he received for a 1956 traffic violation. He is released on $2000 bond on 27 October.
Activities in Year 1961
31 JanuaryDexter Scott, King’s third child, is born.
21 MayAfter the initial group of Freedom Riders seeking to integrate bus terminals are assaulted in Alabama, King addresses a mass rally at a mob-besieged Montgomery church.
16 OctoberKing meets with President John F. Kennedy and urges him to issue a second Emancipation Proclamation to eliminate racial segregation.
16 DecemberKing, Ralph Abernathy, Albany Movement president William G. Anderson, and other protesters are arrested by Laurie Pritchett during a campaign in Albany, Georgia.
Activities in Year 1962
27 July-10 AugustKing is arrested at an Albany, Georgia prayer vigil and jailed. After spending two weeks in jail, King is released.
28 SeptemberDuring the closing session of the SCLC conference in Birmingham, Alabama, a member of the American Nazi Party assaults King, striking him twice in the face.
Activities in Year 1963
28 MarchBernice Albertine, King’s fourth child, is born.
16 AprilResponding to eight Jewish and Christian clergymen’s advice that African Americans wait patiently for justice, King pens his "Letter from Birmingham Jail." King and Abernathy were arrested on 12 April and released on 19 April.
7 MayConflict in Birmingham reaches its peak when high-pressure fire hoses force demonstrators from the business district. In addition to hoses, Police Commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connoremploys dogs, clubs, and cattle prods to disperse four thousand demonstrators in downtown Birmingham.
JuneStrength to Love, King's book of sermons, is published.
28 AugustThe March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom attracts more than two hundred thousand demonstrators to the Lincoln Memorial. Organized by A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, the march is supported by all major civil rights organizations as well as by many labor and religious groups. King delivers his "I Have a Dream" speech.
 After the march, King and other civil rights leaders meet with President John F. Kennedy and Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson in the White House.
18 SeptemberKing delivers the eulogy at the funerals of Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, and Cynthia Dianne Wesley, three of the four children that were killed during the 15 September bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Carole Robertson, the fourth victim, was buried in a separate ceremony.
10 OctoberU.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy authorizes the FBI to wiretap King’s home phone.
Activities in Year 1964
3 JanuaryKing is named "Man of the Year" by Time Magazine.
18 JanuaryPresident Lyndon B. Johnson meets with King, Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, and James Farmer and seeks support for his War on Poverty initiative.
9 FebruaryRobert Haylng, leader of the movement in St. Augustine, Florida, invites King and SCLC to join the struggle.
26 MarchKing meets Malcolm X in Washington, D.C. for the first and only time.
JuneKing's book Why We Can’t Wait is published.
11 JuneKing is arrested and jailed for demanding service at a white-only restaurant in St. Augustine, Florida.
20 JulyKing and SCLC staff launch a People-to-People tour of Mississippi to assist the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in the Mississippi Freedom Summer campaign.
18 NovemberAfter King criticizes the FBI’s failure to protect civil rights workers, the agency’s director J. Edgar Hoover denounces King as "the most notorious liar in the country." A week later he states that SCLC is "spearheaded by Communists and moral degenerates."
1 DecemberKing meets with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover at the Justice Department.
10 DecemberKing receives the Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway. He declares that "every penny" of the $54,000 award will be used in the ongoing civil rights struggle.
Activities in Year 1965
 The King family moves to their new home at 234 Sunset Avenue in Atlanta.
7 MarchIn an event that will become known as "Bloody Sunday," voting rights marchers are beaten at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama as they attempt to march to Montgomery.
17-25 MarchKing, James Forman, and John Lewis lead civil rights marchers from Selma to Montgomeryafter a U.S. District judge upholds the right of demonstrators to conduct an orderly march.
12 AugustKing publicly opposes the Vietnam War at a mass rally at the Ninth Annual Convention of SCLC in Birmingham.
Activities in Year 1966
26 JanuaryKing and his wife move into an apartment at 1550 South Hamlin Avenue in Chicago to draw attention to the city's poor housing conditions.
23 FebruaryIn Chicago, King meets Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad.
7 JuneKing, Floyd McKissick of CORE, and Stokely Carmichael of SNCC resume James Meredith’s "March Against Fear" from Memphis to Jackson, Mississippi, after Meredith was shot and wounded near Memphis.
Activities in Year 1967
4 AprilKing delivers "Beyond Vietnam" to a gathering of Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam at Riverside Church in New York City. He demands that the U.S. take new initiatives to end the war.
JuneKing’s book Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? is published.
4 DecemberKing publicly reveals his plans to organize a mass civil disobedience campaign, the Poor People's Campaign, in Washington, D.C., to force the government to end poverty.
Activities in Year 1968
28 MarchKing leads a march of six thousand protesters in support of striking sanitation workers in Memphis. The march descends into violence and looting, and King is rushed from the scene.
3 AprilKing returns to Memphis, determined to lead a peaceful march. During an evening rally at Mason Temple in Memphis, King delivers his final speech, "I’ve Been to the Mountaintop."
4 AprilKing is shot and killed while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.
9 AprilKing is buried in Atlanta.


Infographic on Martin Luther King Jr.

Infographic on Martin Luther King Jr.

About Martin Luther King Jr.


A second to none social activist, Martin Luther King Jr.’s name comes first to mind when we need to recall a leader in the African Americans' fight for equality. A true advocate of non violence and peaceful protest, the contributions of Martin Luther King Jr. in the American Civil Rights Movement is manifold. Perhaps none can meet up to his courage and his level of tenacity. He is a hero in the eyes of all and he will be remembered as one of the most worshipped leaders in the African American history. His seismic accomplishments is here to live with us forever, to be valued, to be remembered and to be inspired.

Third Monday of January is recognized as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and a federal holiday is observed. He is lauded today for the immense advancement his endeavors took, to achieve racial equality in America, more than the last 350 years could produce.


Early Life - Martin Luther King Jr Childhood


Born with a legal name, Michael King on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia, he was the second of the three children born to Michael King Sr. and Alberta Williams King. A trip to Nazi Germany in 1934 prompted Michael King Sr. to change his and his son’s name to Martin Luther King to pay homage to Martin Luther, the great German reformer. King’s maternal grandfather was the Reverend Adam Daniel Williams who used to serve a well-established Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. After Martin Sr. and Alberta Christine Williams got married, the newly married couple moved into the Williams home. Martin Sr. worked as an assistant pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church and after the death of his father-in-law he took over his duties in the church.

King, his older sister Willie Christine King and younger brother Alfred Daniel Williams King were born in a finally secured home. They grew up in an ambience of love and tenderness. The parents shielded them from racism as far as was possible. However, the reality soon seeped especially when he joined school and it made a great impact on King.

One incident of his early life is worth noting. When Martin was twelve years of age, his grandmother died. King was out at the time watching a parade despite his parents’ opposition. When he was confronted with the news of her death it left him devastated so much so that he allegedly tried to kill himself by jumping from a second-storied window.

Martin Luther King Jr. Education


The Younge Street Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia is the first school in which Martin Luther King Jr. began his basic education. He later went on to attend the David T. Howard Elementary School and was also a part of the Atlanta University Laboratory School and Booker T. Washington High School. Being a diligent and gifted student, he avoided the ninth and twelfth grades and enroled at the Morehouse College, at the age of fifteen and without a graduation degree from high school.

After graduating from Morehouse College in the year 1948, with a B.A. in sociology he attended the Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania and in the year 1951 graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity degree. He was conferred the Pearl Plafker Award in recognition of his academic achievements. He was also rewarded with the J. Lewis Crozer fellowship for graduate study at any university of his choice.

King commenced his doctoral studies in systematic theology at the Boston University in September of 1951. He completed his dissertation in on “A Comparison of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Wieman and on June 5, 1955 he received his Doctorate of Philosophy degree in Systematic Theology from Boston.

Marriage and Children
It was while studying in Boston that King got to know Coretta Scott, a young aspiring singer. She hailed from Alabama and was studying at the New England Conservatory of music. King married Coretta in 1953 and thereafter settled in Montgomery in the state of Alabama. They became proud parents of four children: Yolanda, Dexter Scott King, Martin Luther King III, and Bernice King.

Martin Luther King Jr and the Civil Rights Movement

1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott


When King was twenty-five years of age, he was appointed the pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Montgomery was a highly segregated city and over time it became the core battleground for civil rights in America. When Rosa Park, a black woman refused to give up her seat to a white man it led to her subsequent arrest. The incident took place on December 1, 1955 after which Montgomery black leaders like E. D. Nixon, Jo Ann Robinson and Ralph Abernathy initiated a citywide bus boycott electing King as its leader.

  King’s first speech as the group’s president ran as follow: "We have no alternative but to protest. For many years we have shown an amazing patience. We have sometimes given our white brothers the feeling that we liked the way we were being treated. But we come here tonight to be saved from that patience that makes us patient with anything less than freedom and justice."

King was soon recognized for his skills as a speaker and for his leadership qualities. The boycott continued for 382 days during which the citizens of the black community went to work walking miles everyday. There were violence and harassment all around and both King's and E. D. Nixon’s homes were severely attacked. It was after a span of 382 days in late 1956 that the United States Supreme Court declared that the racial segregation in transportation was unconstitutional. This put an end to racial segregation on all public buses of Montgomery. King became a national figure.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference


After emerging victorious, there arose the need to form a national organization to bring in new leadership for the widespread civil rights movement, to coordinate and to fight for equality through nonviolence. With this motive, King, Ralph Abernathy along with 60 ministers and civil rights activists started the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in January 1957. King was chosen to be the president of the organization. He went on to serve as its head until his assassination in 1968.

King was deeply influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent activism and he had for long wanted to make a trip to India to acquaint himself with his non-violent resistance. His wish came true and on April 1959 he landed in India. The visit deeply affected him. He recollected, "Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity". Another influential figure who greatly inspired him was Thoreau and his essay On Civil Disobedience.

Thus, when it came to ruling the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, King followed the actions of Mahatma Gandhi and Thoreau, imposing the ideas of civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance in his fight against segregation and racial discrimination and to promote civil rights reform. The demonstrations and activism of the organization led to the enactment of various rights into the United States law and also paved the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965.

A “sit-in” movement in Greensboro, North Carolina began on February 1960, upon the initiative of a group of African-American students. Using non-violent methods the students would visit the city’s stores and purposely sit on racially segregated lunch counters. When they were asked to vacate the place and sit in the colored section of the store, the students bluntly refused. King encouraged the students to continue using this tactics. The consequence of this movement was the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which went on to work in collaboration with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The ‘sit-ins’ technique went on to successfully terminate segregation in lunch counters across 27 cities.

In the midst of these upheavals, King authored a number of books and wrote numerous articles. King’s family shifted to his native city Atlanta in 1960. He stepped into his father’s shoe and served as a co-pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church. However, he actively remained involved in various civil rights movements advocating nonviolent protests to fight for equal rights. He was arrested on numerous occasions too.

Birmingham Movement / Letter from Birmingham Jail


In April of 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. along with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference started a protest again racial discrimination and economic inequality in Birmingham, Alabama. The SCLC and other activists used non-violent schemes like boycott, sit-ins and protest marches to fight against segregation. The protest prompted the Birmingham Police Department to make use of high-pressure water hoses and dogs on the demonstrators. This resulted in national outrage and pushed the campaign to a huge success. Most of the public places were opened to the blacks. King was once again hailed a hero.

The campaign led to his 13th arrest and it was during this confinement that he composed the famous “letter from Birmingham jail” elaborating articulately his theory of civil disobedience and non-violence. He wrote, "Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community, which has constantly refused to negotiate, is forced to confront the issue." He further stated that it is an individual’s right to object and disobey laws that were unjust.

Martin Luther King Jr. Speech - "I have a Dream" Speech


Martin Luther King Jr. collaborated with numerous civil rights groups to arrange a “March on Washington” for jobs and freedom. Referred to as the “Big Six” it comprised of six leaders and organizations; Whitney Young, National Urban League; Roy Wilkins, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; John Lewis, SNCC, A. Philip Randolph, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and James L. Farmer, Jr. of the Congress of Racial Equality.

The peaceful march led by King was held on 28th August 1963. It drew approximately 200,000 to 300,000 demonstrators from all over, making it a one-of-a-kind protest in the history of Washington D. C. It was at this event that King delivered his famous and overwhelming “I Have a Dream” speech. In the history of American oratory, the speech was considered to be one of the finest. Following is an extract of his speech: “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”

Nobel Peace Prize


At 35 years of age, Martin Luther King, Jr. became the youngest person ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The event took place on December 10, 1964. In his acceptance speech he made a powerful remark; “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.” He is said to have donated the prize money to help expand the Civil Rights Movement.

Martin Luther King Jr Assassination


There came a time when King’s leadership was challenged due to the emergence of other young radicals who dismissed his non-violent activism. King met with criticism from various corners and his methods were considered weak and outdated. Thus a rift developed between him and the young protestors. Despite all hurdles, King continued his protests and demonstrations through the years 1965 to 1968. He shifted his focus on achieving economic justice and led several campaigns in Chicago, Illinois. He also had his focus on attaining international peace and spoke strongly against the Vietnam War. All these goals resulted in King’s creation of the “Poor People’s Campaign” which would address issues concerning economic inequality and call for widespread economic change.

On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr.’s life came to an abrupt end. While standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, he was shot by James Earl Ray. On June 8, 1968 Ray was arrested in London and bought back to Memphis, Tennessee where he ultimately pleaded guilty to the murder and was sentenced to 99 years in prison. Martin Luther King Jr.’s last speech turned out to be rather prophetic - "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."

Books Authored by Martin Luther King, Jr


King went on to author books like Stride toward Freedom (1958), Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (1967), Why We Can’t Wait (1964), and several others.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day


To pay homage to Martin Luther King, Jr. a federal holiday was announced by President Ronald Reagan, on November 2, 1983. This holiday falls on the third Monday of January every year. On January 17, 2000 the holiday was officially observed for the first time in all the fifty states of U.S.

Awards and Recognition:
Apart from the Nobel Peace Prize, King received around fifty honorary degrees from various colleges and universities. For his "exceptional advancement of the principles of human liberty" he was conferred the American Liberties Medallion in 1965 by the American Liberties Medallion. He received the Spingam Medal from NAACP in 1957.

He was awarded the Margaret Sanger Award by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1966. He posthumously received the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Album and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1971 and 1977, respectively. He and his wife were also posthumously awarded the US Congressional Gold Medal in the year 2004.

In the Gallup’s list of the most widely admired people of the 20th century, King was placed second. He was titled Time Person of the Year in 1963. In an online poll he was voted sixth in the list of Person of the Century. He won the third place in the Greatest American contest that was conducted by the AOL and Discovery Channel.

In addition, innumerable cities in the United States have their streets named in honor of the King.

Martin Luther King Day


WeekdayDateNameHoliday Type
MonJanuary 18, 2010Martin Luther King DayFederal Holiday
MonJanuary 17, 2011Martin Luther King DayFederal Holiday
MonJanuary 16, 2012Martin Luther King DayFederal Holiday
MonJanuary 21, 2013Martin Luther King DayFederal Holiday
MonJanuary 20, 2014Martin Luther King DayFederal Holiday
MonJanuary 19, 2015Martin Luther King DayFederal Holiday
MonJanuary 18, 2016Martin Luther King DayFederal Holiday
MonJanuary 16, 2017Martin Luther King DayFederal Holiday
MonJanuary 15, 2018Martin Luther King DayFederal Holiday
MonJanuary 21, 2019Martin Luther King DayFederal Holiday
MonJanuary 20, 2020Martin Luther King DayFederal Holiday

Martin Luther King Jr, Facts and Information


Legal NameMichael King
Adopted NameMartin Luther King, Jr.
Born01/15/29
DiedApril 4, 1968 (aged 39)
Place of BirthAtlanta, Georgia, U.S.
Political MovementsAfrican-American Civil
Rights Movement, Peace Movement
OrganizationSouthern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) (January 1957)
MonumentsMartin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
ReligionBaptist (Progressive National Baptist Convention)
ProfessionActivist, Clergyman
FatherMartin Luther King, Sr.
MotherAlberta Williams King
SpouseCoretta Scott King
Marriage Date/year1953
ChildrenYolanda Denise King (1955–2007)
Martin Luther King III (b. 1957)
Dexter Scott King (b. 1961)
Bernice Albertine King (b. 1963)
SchoolingDavid T. Howard Elementary School
Booker T. Washington High School
CollegeMorehouse College
Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester
UniversityBoston University
AwardsNobel Peace Prize (1964), Spingam Medal (1957), Presidential Medal of Freedom (1977, posthumous), Grammy Award for Best Spoken Album 1971 posthumous), Congressional Gold Medal (2004, posthumous)
Montgomery Bus Boycott1955
The Albany MovementDecember, 1961
Birmingham Movement/ Letter from Birmingham Jail April, 1963
March on Washington and King’s I have a Dream Speech28th August, 1963
Martin Luther King, Jr. DayThird Monday of January every year




Last Updated : January 06, 2015





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