Africans In Diaspora

Martin Luther King Jr Civil Rights Activist & Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

Story Highlights

  • Early Life of Martin Luther King Jr
  • Activism & Personal Life of Martin Luther King Jr
  • Martin Luther King Jr Death & Legacies

Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was a prominent leader of the Civil Rights Movement and Nobel Peace Prize laureate known for his use of nonviolence and civil disobedience. He was born Michael Lewis King, which was later changed by his father to Martin Luther, after the German preacher and reformist.

From 1954 to 1968, he was the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement in the United States. He was an American Baptist minister and activist. He was later assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, and was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where he died.

His final words were spoken to musician Ben Branch, who was scheduled to perform that night at a planned event. He said “Ben, make sure you play Take My Hand, Precious Lord in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty”.

Early Life of Martin Luther King Jr

King suffered from depression for the majority of his childhood. He rolled with a white kid whose father owned a business close to his family’s house. The boys began school when they were six (6) years old.

King had to attend an African American school, while the other boy went to a white school. The King later lost his friend because the boy’s father no longer allowed him to play with his son.

King was a bright youngster. He skipped both the ninth and twelfth grades, enrolling in college at the age of fifteen. He earned a degree in sociology at the age of 19 and a PhD in theology seven years later at the age of 26.

He eventually received another fifty or so honorary degrees from various colleges and universities.

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Activism & Personal Life of Martin Luther King Jr

King and other civil rights advocates established the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957. (SCLC). He escaped an assassination plot in 1958 after being stabbed multiple times by a woman. Under a written directive from Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, the FBI wiretapped King’s phone line in 1963, suspecting him of being a Communist.

During the 1963 March on Washington, King also gave a 17-minute speech that became known as “I Have a Dream.” It became known as one of the greatest speeches in the history of American oratory.

On October 14, 1964, King became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize until Malala Yousafzai in 2014, for leading nonviolent resistance to racial prejudice in the United States. He donated the entire $54,123 prize money to the civil rights movement.

Martin Luther King Jr. organized and led marches for the right of African-Americans to vote, desegregation, labor rights, and other basic civil rights.

The majority of these rights were successfully enacted into US law with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

King was imprisoned 29 times for offenses ranging from civil disobedience to driving five miles over the speed limit.

King fell in love with the white daughter of an immigrant German woman. He intended to marry her, but friends advised him against it, claiming that an interracial marriage would cause animosity among both blacks and whites. After six months, King ended the relationship. He never fully recovered.

Martin Luther King Jr. is best known for portraying mostly the advancement of civil rights through nonviolent and civil disobedience tactics based on his Christian beliefs and inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s non – violence activism.

Martin Luther King Jr Death & Legacies

At 6:01 p.m. on April 4, 1968, King was shot dead by James Earl Ray. The bullet entered his cheekbone, smashed his jaw, and then traveled down his spinal cord before landing in his shoulder. He died an hour later, at 7:05 p.m., at the hospital.

Leopard Is The King Of The Jungle And Not The Lion

King requested that no mention of his awards and honors be made at his funeral, but rather that it be said that he tried to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and serve humanity.

President Lyndon B. Johnson declared April 7, 1968, a national day of mourning in honor of the civil rights leader. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was declared a federal holiday in all fifty states on January 17, 2000.

The results of King’s autopsy revealed that stress had taken a significant toll on his body. Despite being only 39 years old at the time of his death, one of the doctors said he had “em the heart of a 60-year-old.”

Martin Luther King was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest civilian honor in the United States of America) by President Jimmy Carter in 1977.


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