, became one of the outstanding black leaders in the United States. He aroused whites and blacks alike to protest racial discrimination, portray, and war. A champion of nonviolent resistance to oppress ion, he was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1964. Martin Luther King, Jr.
, was born in Atlanta, Ga. , on Jan. 15, 1929. His father, Martin, Sr. , was the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, a black congregation. His mother, Alberta Williams King, was a schoolteacher.
Martin had an older sister, Christine, and a younger brother, Alfred Daniel. Martin encountered racism at an early age. When he was 6, his friendship with two white playmates was cut short by their parents. When he was 11 a white woman struck him and called him a “nigger. ” A bright student, he was admitted to Morehouse College at 15, without completing high school.
He decided to become a minister and at 18 was ordained in his fathers’ church. After graduating from Morehouse in 1948, he entered Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pa. He was the ledictorian of his class in 1951 and won a graduate fellowship. At Boston University he received a Ph.
D. in theology in 1955. In Boston King met Coretta Scott. They were married in 1953 and had two sons, Martin Luther III and Dexter Scott, and two daughters, Yolanda Denise and Bernice Albertine.
Civil-Rights Efforts King had been impressed by the teachings of Henry David Thoreau and Mahatma Gandhi on nonviolent resistance. King wrote, “I came to feel that this was the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom. ” He became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala. , in 1954.
In December 1955 King was chosen to head the Montgomery lmprovement Association, formed by the black community to lead a boycott of the segregated city buses. During the boycott King’s home was bombed, but he persuaded his followers to remain nonviolent despite threats to their Iives and property. Late in 1956 the United States Supreme Court forced desegregation of the buses. King beIieved that the boycott proved that “there is a new Negro in the South, with a new sense of dignity and destiny.
” In 1957 King became the youngest recipient of the Spingam Medal, an award presented annually to an outstanding black person by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In 1958 King became president of a group later known as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), formed to carry on civil-rights activities in the South. King inspired blacks throughout the South to hold peaceful sit-ins and freedom rides to protest segregation. A visit to India in 1959 gave King a long-awaited opportunity to study Gandhi’s techniques of nonviolent protest. In 1960 King became copastor of his fathers church in Atlanta.
The next year he led a “nonviolent army” to protest discrimination in Albany, Ga. King was jailed in 1963 during a successful campaign to achieve the desegregation of many public facilities in Birmingham, Ala. In a moving appeal, known as the “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” he replied to severaI white clergymen who felt that his efforts were ill timed. King argued that Asian and African nations were fast achieving political independence while “we still creep at a horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. ” In 1964 King became the youngest recipient of the Nobel peace prize. He regarded it not only as a personal honor but also as an international tribute to the nonviolent civil-rights moment.
In 1965 King led a drive to register black voters in Selma, Ala. The drive met with violent resistance. In protest of this treatment, thousands of demonstrators conducted a first day march from Selma to the capitol in Montgomery. King was disappointed that the progress of civil rights in the South had not been matched by improvements in the lives of northern blacks. In response to the riots in poverty-stricken black urban neighborhoods in 1965, he was determined to focus the nation’s attention on the living conditions .