Photo Courtesy of National Park Service Digital Image Archives
Every year, on the third Monday of January, the country celebrates the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. You probably know that Dr. King was one of history’s most important figures in the quest for equal civil rights for African-Americans, but do you know his background, his story, or his work? Read on to find out a little bit more about the hero whose impact is all around us today.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1929. His father was a minister, so King was surrounded by religion and spirituality from the beginning of his life. He graduated from Morehouse College and Crozer Theological Seminary (a seminary school helps to teach people to become ministers, rabbis, or priests) and earned a doctorate degree in systemic theology (the study of God and religion) from Boston University. In 1954, King became a pastor at a Baptist church. He married Coretta Scott with whom he had four children.
After Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white person while riding a bus, King was named head of the Montgomery (Alabama) Improvement Association. He spoke out and became involved in movements and marches against racism, violence, and poverty. He was part of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957 and gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech to hundreds of thousands of people at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.
As he became popular for his beliefs and ideals, King also became dangerous in the eyes of some people including the government and the FBI, who began watching and listening in on him. During his many years of hard work, his life was threatened numerous times including a stabbing and a bombing at his home. In 1968, King was assassinated in a motel room in Memphis, Tennessee.
Although his life was cut tragically short, Martin Luther King, Jr. was and continues to be recognized and beloved for his efforts to stop discrimination and violence. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and, after his death, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.
Because Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s fight for equality was so important and his dreams live on today, it’s very fitting that we celebrate his life and accomplishments each January. All over the country, people of all ages give thanks to Dr. King, participate in community service projects, and hold events and parades in his honor. So this year, take some time to reflect on this remarkable man and the difference he made.
To learn more about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and celebrating his legacy, visit www.thekingcenter.org and www.nationalservice.gov/mlkday.