Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr., eloquent African-American Baptist minister and leader of the civil rights movement from the mid-1950s, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 15, 1929. Dr. King began his involvement in the civil rights movement in 1955 with his leadership of the Montgomery bus boycott, which ended segregated seating on city buses. Adopting Mohandas K. Gandhi’s principles of nonviolence, King led demonstrations, sit-ins and boycotts in cities throughout the South to show the injustice of racist policies. He explained his belief in nonviolence in a letter written during one of his many incarcerations: ‘Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored….’ King’s efforts helped to bring about the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Dr. King’s leadership of the civil rights movement brought many threats against his life and on April 4, 1968, he was killed by a sniper’s bullet in Memphis, Tennessee. Martin Luther King Day was established by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, for the third Monday in January.
Image: National Archives