King, Martin Luther
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Time Period
1/15/1929  - 4/4/1968
Description
In 1954, Martin Luther King, Jr. was the pastor of a Montgomery Baptist church. After Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing her bus seat to a white man (1955), he led the Montgomery bus boycott, which ended a year later after the segregation laws were deemed unconstitutional.

Empowered by the boycott’s success, King became president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, an organization that coordinated protests in the South. Here, King was able to couple Gandhi’s use of nonviolent protest with Christian tenets of love and moral action. He helped lead important protests and marches in Birmingham, Washington D.C, and Selma. His actions won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He continued fighting for equality up until his assassination on April 4, 1968.

King’s leadership in the Civil Rights Movement helped change public sentiments toward racism and propel new laws ending segregation and discrimination across the country.
Interactive Timeline(s)
Prominent Religious Events and People in American History
Race/Ethnicity and Religion
Baptist Religious Events and People in American History
Browse Related Timeline Entries
Prominent Religious Events and People in American History
Race/Ethnicity and Religion in American History
Baptist Religious Events and People in American History
Narrative
Martin Luther King, Jr. was the oldest son of a powerful and influential black Baptist minister in the American South. Following in his father’s footsteps, King graduated at the top of his class from Crozer Theological Seminary in 1951 and began graduate school at Boston University. It was there that he found moral action to be the root of Christianity and Gandhi’s use of nonviolence to be an inspiring alternative to combat injustice.

He became the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1954. The next year, local unrest began to brew after Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving up her seat on a bus to a white man. A ministers’ meeting chose King to lead the Montgomery bus boycott, which remained in effect for a year until the Supreme Court deemed the segregation laws unconstitutional.

Empowered by the success of the Montgomery bus boycott, King became president of Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, an organization that coordinated protests in the South. He helped lead important protests including: the 1963 Birmingham protest; the 1963 March on Washington (famous for the “I Have a Dream” speech); and the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March. In 1964, King was the Nobel Peace Prize.

He also helped form the Progressive National Baptist Convention in 1961. King along with other Baptist clergy seceded from the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc. due to its more conservative position on racial issues. The new denomination helped push the growing civil rights movement further without backlash from its former denomination.

While King’s nonviolent protests for equality helped change public sentiment regarding unjust racial laws, his later campaigns to combat poverty in America were less successful. On April 4, 1968, King was aiding a black garbage collectors strike in Memphis when he was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.

King’s leadership in the Civil Rights Movement helped change public sentiments toward racism and propel new laws ending segregation and voting discrimination across the country.
Religious Groups
Baptist Family: Other ARDA Links

Events
Billy Graham's New York Crusade
National Baptist Convention
Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Progressive National Baptist Convention
Movements
Civil Rights Movement
Photographs

Martin Luther King, Jr- Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-126559

Martin Luther King, Jr speaking 2- Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-111165

Martin Luther King, Jr and Coretta Scott King with Mayor Wagner- Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-120210

Martin Luther King, Jr, I Have a Dream speech- US Government photo

Martin Luther King, Jr speaking at Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, 1957- National Archives and Records Administration
Book/Journal Source(s)
Queen, Edward, Stephen Prothero and Gardiner Shattuck, 1996. The Encyclopedia of American Religious History. New York: Facts on File.
Murphy, Larry, J. Gordon Melton, and Gary Ward, 1993. Encyclopedia of African American Religions. New York: Garland.
Reid, Daniel, Robert Linder, Bruce Shelley, and Harry Stout, 1990. Dictionary of Christianity in America. Downers Grove, IL.
Web Page Contributor
Benjamin T. Gurrentz
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in Sociology

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