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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Powerful Essays
Martin Luther King Jr.

King, Martin Luther, Jr. (1929-1968), American clergyman and Nobel Prize winner, one of the principal leaders of the American civil rights movement and a prominent advocate of nonviolent protest. King’s challenges to segregation and racial discrimination in the 1950s and 1960s helped convince many white Americans to support the cause of civil rights in the United States. After his assassination in 1968, King became a symbol of protest in the struggle for racial justice.
Education and Early Life
Martin Luther King, Jr., was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the eldest son of Martin Luther King, Sr., a Baptist minister, and Alberta Williams King. His father served as pastor of a large Atlanta church, Ebenezer Baptist, which had been founded by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s maternal grandfather. King, Jr. was ordained as a Baptist minister at age 18.
King attended local segregated public schools, where he excelled. He entered nearby Morehouse College at age 15 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1948. After graduating with honors from Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania in 1951, he went to Boston University where he earned a doctoral degree in systematic theology in 1955.
King’s public-speaking abilities—which would become renowned as his stature grew in the civil rights movement—developed slowly during his collegiate years. He won a second-place prize in a speech contest while an undergraduate at Morehouse, but received Cs in two public-speaking courses in his first year at Crozer. By the end of his third year at Crozer, however, professors were praising King for the powerful impression he made in public speeches and discussions.
Throughout his education, King was exposed to influences that related Christian theology to the struggles of oppressed peoples. At Morehouse, Crozer, and Boston University, he studied the teachings on nonviolent protest of Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi. King also read and heard the sermons of white Protestant ministers who preached against American racism. Benjamin E. Mays, president of Morehouse and a leader in the national community of racially liberal clergymen, was especially important in shaping King’s theological development.
While in Boston, King met Coretta Scott, a music student and native of Alabama. They were marr...

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...d reported on his private life to the president and other government officials. The FBI’s reason for invading his privacy was that King associated with Communists and other “radicals.';
After his death, King came to represent black courage and achievement, high moral leadership, and the ability of Americans to address and overcome racial divisions. Recollections of his criticisms of U.S. foreign policy and poverty faded, and his soaring rhetoric calling for racial justice and an integrated society became almost as familiar to subsequent generations of Americans as the Declaration of Independence.
King’s historical importance was memorialized at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Social Justice, a research institute in Atlanta. Also in Atlanta is the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, which includes his birthplace, the Ebenezer Church, and the King Center, where his tomb is located. Perhaps the most important memorial is the national holiday in King’s honor, designated by the Congress of the United States in 1983 and observed on the third Monday in January, a day that falls on or near King’s birthday of January 15.
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