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Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr., most famous for his “I Have a Dream” speech, was a non-violent black civil rights activist in the 1950s and 1960s. Born January 15, 1929 in Atlanta Georgia, King attended local segregated public schools, were he excelled in all subjects. At age 15, he entered the nearby Morehouse College and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1948. After graduating with honors from Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania in 1951, King went to Boston University where he received a doctoral degree in systematic theology in 1955. While in Boston, he met Coretta Scott, and was married in 1953.
Rosa Parks, a member of the the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), was arrested on a bus owned by Montgomery Bus Company for refusing to give up her seat in 1955. This rallied the NAACP well as several other local blacks to a bus protest. King, chosen by a NACCP leader, was appointed president of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), and in February 1956, a lawsuit was filed against Montgomery and was later won.
By that time, King was a recognized, respected leader. In 1957, he helped found a group called the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), an organization of black churches and ministers aimed to challenge segregation. As president of the organization, King led many non-violent protests, demonstrations, boycotts, and marches to end segregation and discrimination. In the early 1960s, King led the SCLC in a series of protests that gained national attention. His first protest, in Albany Georgia, proved unsuccessful after many of the protesters were jailed and they ran out of funds. They did prove successful, however, in Birmingham, Alabama, where King and Fred Shuttlesworth led a protest where even school children joined in by singing in the streets. This forced the white leaders in Birmingham to negotiate an end to some forms of segregation in Birmingham.
King and other black leaders organized the 1963 March on Washington, a massive protest in Washington D.C., for jobs and civil rights. On August 28, 1963 delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech to more than 200,000 civil rights supporters. The Washington D.C. protest and Birmingham protest together created the political momentum that resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited segregation in public accommodations, as well as discrimination in education and employment. For this work, King was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1964.
King did other protests afterwards, also. One of them was The Selma Marches, in Selma, Alabama, which led to the Voting Acts Right of 1965, which suspended the use of literary test and other voter qualification tests used which usually prevented blacks from registering to vote. This was King’s last remarkable movement before he started losing popularity, while leaders of the Black Power organization such as Malcom X, gained support.
Then, on April 4, 1968, things took a turn for the worst. While giving a speech on striking black garbage workers in Memphis Tennessee, King was shot by a sniper, James Earl Ray. James was later, in 1969, sentenced to 99 years in prison
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Martin Luther King Jr., African-American Civil Rights Movement, Selma to Montgomery marches, Counterculture of the 1960s, Montgomery bus boycott, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Fred Shuttlesworth, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Montgomery Improvement Association, Selma, Birmingham campaign
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