Today celebrates the life and achievements of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., (January 15, 1929—April 4, 1968). This national holiday honors the civil rights leader and his non-violent movement to end racial segregation and his quest to right injustices in the United States.
After graduating from high school at the age of fifteen, King studied at Morehouse College where he was elected president of a predominantly white senior class and was awarded his B.A. degreen in 1948 and his B.D. in 1951. He received his doctorate in 1955 from Boston University. It was in Boston where he met and married Coretta Scott and the couple went on to have four children–two sons and two daughters.
He served as co-pastor, alongside his father, at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga., from 1960 until his death in 1968. His grandfather had been pastor there as well from 1914 until 1931, when his father stepped into the position.
By 1954, King was a member of the executive committee of the NAACP and, in 1955, accepted the leadership of a bus boycott that was the first great Negro nonviolent demonstration of its kind. It lasted 382 days until, in December 1956, the U.S. supreme Court declared segregation on buses illegal. Although it was a great victory, it came with many sacrifices. King was arrested, threatened, subjected to personal abuse and his home was bombed, but he emerged an even stronger leader.
His list of accomplishments are great including becoming not only a symbolic leader of the civil rights movement, but a world figure, as well. In addition to traveling over six million miles to spread his message of peace, he led many marches and wrote numerous books and speeches, one of which was his famous “I Have a Dream” address which he delivered to more than 250,000 marchers in Washington, D.C.
At the age of 35, he was the youngest man ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Sadly, on April 4, 1968, this great man was assassinated as he stood on the balcony of a hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee.