“I had a dream…” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Michael Luther King, Jr. was born on this day in Atlanta, Georgia, USA in 1929. Today is the 84th anniversary of his birth.
Born to into a “preaching” family. Both his father and grandfather were Baptist ministers. His maternal grandfather, A.D. Williams took over the Ebenezer Baptist church in Atlanta when its congregation numbered only 13. Under his leadership that quickly changed. King’s father married Alberta Williams (A.D.’s only surviving child) in 1926.
Michael King Sr. stepped in as pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church upon the death of his father-in-law in 1931. He too became a successful minister, and adopted the name Martin Luther King Sr. in honor of the German Protestant religious leader Martin Luther. In due time, Michael Jr. would follow his father’s lead and adopt the name himself. [Biography]
Martin was the middle of three children in the King household. He grew up in Atlanta attending Booker T. Washington High School. He entered Morehouse College at age fifteen. He graduated from Morehouse in 1948 and went on to get his Bachelor of Divinity degree at Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, PA. and his Doctor of Philosophy from Boston University.
He emerged as a Civil Rights leader with the Montgomery Bus Boycott in December of 1955. In 1957 he worked with Ralph Abernathy and other ministers to create …
the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to harness the moral authority and organizing power of black churches. They would help conduct non-violent protests to promote civil rights reform. [Ibid]
The SCLC organize voter registration drives in the South. In 1959 King traveled to India
The trip affected him in a deeply profound way, increasing his commitment to America’s civil rights struggle. African-American civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, who had studied Gandhi’s teachings, became one of King’s associates and counseled him to dedicate himself to the principles of non-violence. [Ibid]
The “Sit-In” movement began in 1960. By summer 27 sit-ins had successfully ended lunch counter segregation. King joined an Atlanta lunch-counter sit in and was arrested with 36 others.
King was arrested again in 1963 after he organized a demonstration in Birmingham, Alabama. The demonstration, which included families, ended when the
City police turned dogs and fire hoses on demonstrators. Martin Luther King was jailed along with large numbers of his supporters, but the event drew nationwide attention. …However, King was personally criticized by black and white clergy alike for taking risks and endangering the children who attended the demonstration. From the jail in Birmingham, King eloquently spelled out his theory of non-violence: “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.”[Ibid]
On August 28, 1963 King and his supporters marched peacefully to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC and he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.
The Civil Rights Act passed 1964. The same year King received the Nobel Peace Prize. King continued to advocate for civil rights. He saw the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 and worked to bring the Civil Rights Movement to larger cities.
He also added his voice to the chorus of protesters against the Vietnam War.
He felt that America’s involvement in Vietnam was politically untenable and the government’s conduct of the war discriminatory to the poor…[Ibid]
In the spring of 1968 King went to Memphis, Tennessee to support sanitation workers who were on strike.
On April 3, in what proved to be an eerily prophetic speech, he told supporters, “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.” The next day, while standing on a balcony outside his room at the Lorraine Motel, Martin Luther King Jr. was struck by a sniper’s bullet. [Ibid]