Martin Luther King – World Human Rights Icon

Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King, Jr
(January 15, 1929, Atlanta, Georgia, United States – April 4, 1968, Memphis, Tennessee, United States) (assassination by gunshot) (aged 39)
Nationality: United States of America
Category: Leaders
Occupation: Devotees, Politicians
Unique distinction: The most prominent leader in the African-American civil rights movement, a World human rights icon
Religion: Baptist
Nobel Peace Prize (10-Dec-1964)

1. At the centre of non-violence stands the principle of love.
2. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
3. Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.
4. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is “What are you doing for others?”
5. Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
6. A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a moulder of consensus.
7. Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see. 8. Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.

Achievements and contributions:

Social and professional position: American Baptist minister, pacifist, and civil rights activist.
The main contribution to (what is known): Martin Luther King was a famous leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights based on Christian values and beliefs.


Martin Luther King was an American clergyman, activist and prominent leader in the African-American civil rights movement.
His main legacy was to secure progress on civil rights in the United States, and he has become a hero in the civil rights movement in America and a human rights icon in the whole world.
Martin Luther King was pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama from 1954 to 59. A Baptist minister, King became a civil rights activist early in his career. Moreover, he advocated the struggle against racism and social change exclusively through non-violent means.
A powerful speaker and a man of great spiritual strength, he shaped the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
In 1964, at the age of 35 years, King won the Nobel Peace Prize, becoming at the time the youngest recipient ever.
Birthday is National Holiday on 15 January Martin Luther King Day (USA).
Honours and Awards: Man of the Year 1963 (Time), Margaret Sanger Award 1966, Presidential Medal of Freedom (1977, posthumous), Congressional Gold Medal (2004, posthumous). Nobel Peace Prize (1964).
Major works: Stride Toward Freedom (1958), Why We Can’t Wait (1964), Where Do We Go From Here? (1967).

Career and personal life:

Origin: Martin Luther King, Jr., was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. He was the son of Michael Luther King, Sr., who was a Baptist pastor and Alberta Christine King (maiden name, Williams)- a  schoolteacher.  King’s father was born “Michael King,” and he changed his name to Martin Luther in honour of the German Protestant leader Martin Luther, until the family travelled to Europe in 1934 and visited Germany.
Martin had an older sister, Willie Christine King, and a younger brother Alfred Daniel Williams King.
Education: He attended Booker T. Washington High School. From 1944 to 1948 he studied at Morehouse College. Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, Bachelor of Divinity degree (1951). Doctoral studies in systematic theology at Boston University (Doctor of Philosophy, 1955).

Career highlights:

Baptist minister. Martin Luther King was licensed to preach by Ebenezer Baptist Church deacons, in 1947 and in 1948 was ordained, a Baptist minister.
In 1954 he became pastor of a church in Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, AL, Montgomery, where he served from 1954 to 1960.
In 1958, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. was stabbed by a mentally-unstable woman in Blumstein’s Department Store in Harlem. The 29-year-old King was rushed to Harlem Hospital, where doctors performed emergency surgery to remove a steel letter opener. In 1960, King visited India at the invitation of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, where he studied the works of Mahatma Gandhi.
From 1960 to 1968 he was co-pastor with the father of  Ebenezer Baptist Church at Atlanta.
During one such period in 1960, presidential candidate John Kennedy made a sympathetic telephone call to King’s wife. The initiative was widely seen as an important factor in swinging the black vote behind the Democrats.

I have a Dream

He became the leader of the bus boycott (1955-56) which began in Montgomery on 1 December 1955, an action inspired by the arrest of African-American Rosa Parks when she refused to give up her seat on a public bus.
King was selected to head the Montgomery Improvement Association, whose boycott efforts ended in success. The boycott lasted over a year, during which time King’s home was bombed, but he withstood heavy pressure and gained national attention and prestige as a civil-rights leader.
In 1956 Racial segregation on city buses were ruled unconstitutional, and that eventually ended the city’s policies of racial segregation on public transportation. In 1957 he formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), serving as its first president and developed a campaign of direct but non-violent action aimed at achieving civil rights for African Americans.
In 1960 he returned to Atlanta to become a copastor with his father at Ebenezer Baptist Church. On April 16, 1963, King was imprisoned in Birmingham, Alabama, after a nonviolent protest. There he wrote his famous ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’, in which he defended this kind of direct, nonviolent action as a way of forcing people to take notice of injustice.
On 28 August 1963, on the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, King helped organize the March on Washington, when the inspirational orator spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial his famous “I have a dream” speech to a crowd of over 250,000. King said: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.
The following year King and the SCLC led a campaign for African-American voter registration centred on Selma, Ala.
In 1965 nonviolent march from Selma to Montgomery was attacked by police who beat and tear-gassed the protestors. The events in Selma provoked national outrage, and months later aroused public opinion and did much to precipitate the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Thereafter, King broadened his campaign to encompass the morally more complex issues of de facto segregation outside the south, economic injustice, deeper concern over poverty and the increasingly divisive war in Vietnam mainly from a religious perspective.
In 1966 he moved north to tackle racism in Chicago, where he met the opposition of the powerful Mayor Daley. In 1967, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. led the largest antiwar demonstration to date in New York City. More than 1,100 people marched with King from Central Park to U.N. headquarters to protest the Vietnam War.
Over the next few years, King’s work began to bear fruit as the U.S. Congress passed landmark legislation addressing long-standing civil inequalities: the Civil Rights Act (1964), the Voting Rights Act (1965), and the Fair Housing Act (1968).

Personal life: 

Growing up in Atlanta, King attended Booker T. Washington High School. At that time King sang with his church choir at the 1939 Atlanta premiere of the movie Gone with the Wind.
He skipped a ninth and twelfth grades and entered Morehouse College without formally graduating from high school. King was a child prodigy, he entered college at age 15 and was ordained as a minister of the Baptist Church at age 19.
In 1948, he graduated from Morehouse with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology and enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1951. King then began doctoral studies in systematic theology at Boston University and received his Doctor of Philosophy on June 5, 1955 (Diss.: “A Comparison of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Wieman”).
In 1957 he attended classes at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University.
He married the former Coretta Scott, a сonservatory student on June 18, 1953.
The marriage ceremony took place on the lawn of Scott’s home in Marion. The Reverend King, Sr., performed the service. Four children were born to Dr and Mrs King: Yolanda Denise (November 17, 1955 – 15 May 2007), Martin Luther III, activist (October 23, 1957),  Dexter Scott (January 30, 1961), Bernice Albertine (March 28, 1963).
On April 4, 1968, he went to Memphis, Tennessee, to support a strike by sanitation workers. As King was standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel (next to Jesse Jackson), he was injured by a sniper and died in the hospital.
Remains Buried, Martin Luther King, Jr. Center, Atlanta, GA.


King is recognized as a martyr by two Christian churches. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. is remembered today in New York with a street named in his honour. There is also a Martin Luther King, Jr. High School on Amsterdam Avenue and a Martin Luther King Triangle, a parking space in Manhattan’s Mott Haven neighbourhood (Austin Place and East 149th Street).
He was arrested and jailed for protesting segregation at a lunch counter; the case drew national attention, and presidential candidate John F. Kennedy interceded to obtain his release.
In 1980  researchers found a  deal of plagiarism in King’s writing. However, King was not a scientist or philosopher but rather a prominent, charismatic orator, whose main task was to influence and inspire people.
King was the first African American and the fourth non-president honoured with his own memorial in the National Mall area. Americans recognize King every year on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a national holiday on the third Monday in January (close to King’s birthday on January 15th).