January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. He was the son of Reverend Martin Luther King Sr. and Alberta Williams King. He had an older sister (Willie Christine) and a younger brother (Alfred Daniel).
Dr. King married Coretta Scott on June 18, 1953. The wedding was held on the lawn of Coretta’s parents with the ceremony performed by Dr. King’s father.
The Kings had four children:
All four children followed in their parents footsteps and became civil rights activists.
Martin Luther King was one of the main leaders of the American civil rights movement. A Baptist minister by training, King became a civil rights activist early in his career leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott (Rosa Parks) and helping to found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. His efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, raising public consciousness of the civil rights movement and establishing King as one of the greatest orators in American history. In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end segregation and racial discrimination through civil disobedience and other non-violent means.
In late March 1968, King went to Memphis, Tennessee in support of the black sanitary public works employees, who had been on strike since March 12 for higher wages and better treatment. On April 3, King returned to Memphis and addressed a rally, delivering his “I’ve been to the Mountaintop” address at Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ, Inc. – World Headquarters). King’s flight to Memphis had been delayed by a bomb threat against his plane. In the close his last speech, in reference to the bomb threat, King said the following:
“And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers? Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And 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. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
On April 4, 1968, while standing on the 2nd floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Dr. King was assassinated. The assassination led to a nationwide wave of riots in more than 60 cities. Escaped convict James Earl Ray was captured two months later and charged with King’s death.