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Remembering the Life of Martin Luther King Jr.

  • Remembering the Life of Martin Luther King Jr. - morehouse college
    Office of Strategic Communications at Morehouse College

    A Preacher’s Son

    En español | Martin Luther King Jr. was born Jan. 15, 1929, to the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. and Alberta Williams King in the family’s home in Atlanta.  His name at birth was Michael King but it was later changed by his father, who had traveled to Germany and became inspired by Martin Luther. A star student, King graduated from high school at age 15 then went on to Morehouse College. He later obtained graduate degrees from Crozer Theological Seminary and Boston University.

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  • Remembering the Life of Martin Luther King Jr. - husband and family
    Atlanta Journal-Constitution/AP

    Husband and Father

    While attending Boston University, King met Coretta Scott, whom he married on June 18, 1953. Less than a year later the couple moved to Montgomery, Ala., when King became pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. They had four children: Yolanda, Martin Luther III, Dexter and Bernice.

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  • Remembering the Life of Martin Luther King Jr. - National Spotlight
    Gene Herrick/AP

    National Spotlight

    In 1955, King first attracted national attention when he and other civil rights activists were arrested after leading a mass boycott of public buses in Montgomery, Ala. The protest was successful; a federal court ruled that any law requiring racially segregated seating on buses was unconstitutional.

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  • Remembering the Life of Martin Luther King Jr. - Southern Leader

    Southern Leader

    In 1957, King became the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The organization advocated nonviolent tactics to effect change and was largely supported by black churches in the struggle for civil rights.

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  • Remembering the Life of Martin Luther King Jr. - Campaigns for Change
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    Campaigns for Change

    As president of the SCLC, King was involved in a number of high-profile, nonviolent civil rights demonstrations. Among them were the 1963 campaign against racial segregation and economic injustice in Birmingham, Ala., and the March on Washington, where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. King also led the Selma-to-Montgomery marches for African Americans to exercise their voting rights in 1965.

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  • Remembering the Life of Martin Luther King Jr. - Voice Against War
    John C. Goodwin

    Voice Against War

    King delivered his first public antiwar speech, known as “Beyond Vietnam,” at New York’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967. The speech is arguably one of the most controversial — and greatest — he ever gave.

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  • Remember the past, help shape the future.
    Robert Deutschman

    AARP Offer: Remember the past, help shape the future

    Share your stories and help advocate for political support to protect your future. Join AARP to support living with dignity and purpose.

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  • Remembering the Life of Martin Luther King Jr. - Power to the Poor
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    Power to the Poor

    King was the main organizer of the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, an effort to gain economic justice for all the impoverished people in the United States, regardless of race. The focus was jobs and ending housing discrimination. He traveled across the country to recruit people from all walks of life to participate in the SCLC-led protest.

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  • Remembering the Life of Martin Luther King Jr. - Tragedy in Memphis
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    Tragedy in Memphis

    While in the throes of planning the Poor People’s Campaign, King was fatally shot on April 4, 1968, by James Earl Ray while standing on a motel balcony in Memphis. King’s death ignited riots and disturbances across the nation that destroyed many city neighborhoods and business districts. The Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, along with Jesse Jackson and King’s widow, Coretta, stepped up to lead the Poor People’s Campaign in the wake of its slain leader.

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  • Remembering the Life of Martin Luther King Jr. - MLK Day Bill Signed 1983

    Holiday Salute

    A campaign started in the late 1970s to have a federal holiday mark King’s birthday. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill to create Martin Luther King Jr. Day, making the civil rights leader the first African American to be honored with a federal holiday. It was first observed on Jan. 20, 1986, and was celebrated in all 50 states in 2000.

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  • Remembering the Life of Martin Luther King Jr. - Place of Honor
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    Place of Honor

    In 2011, King received another high honor when a memorial in his name and likeness was dedicated in Washington. He is the first African American honored with a memorial on or near the National Mall.

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