Name: Martin Luther King Jr

Alive: 1929-1968

Bio: Martin Luther King Jr was an American Baptist minister, activist, humanitarian, and leader promoting non-violence in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. King became a civil rights activist early in his career and led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott as well as helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957. King led an unsuccessful struggle against segregation in Albany, Georgia and helped organize the 1963 nonviolent protests in Birmingham, Alabama. He also helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. He established a reputation as one of the greatest orators in American history. On October 14, 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolence protests. In 1965, he helped to organize the Montgomery marches, and the following year he and SCLC took the movement to Chicago to work on segregated housing. In the final years of his life, King focused on poverty and spoke against the Vietnam War, which alienated many of his liberal allies with a 1967 speech titled "Beyond Vietnam".

Quotes:

“Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?”

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”

Popular Culture:

“Return of the King” – season 1, episode 9 of “The Boondocks”, 2006

“Parting the Waters” – television mini-series, 2000

“The Mountaintop” – stage production, 1968

Further reading:

  • David Garrow, Bearing the Cross (2004)
  • Martin Luther King, The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. (1998)
  • Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the Luther Years 1954 – 1963 (1988)