Martin Luther King Jr. was an American Christian minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the Civil Rights Movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, on Jan. 25, 1929, Dr. King is best known for advancing civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience, inspired by his Christian beliefs and the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi.
He led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and in 1957 became the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). With the SCLC, Dr. King led an unsuccessful 1962 struggle against segregation in Albany, Georgia, and was among the organizers of the nonviolent 1963 protests in Birmingham, Alabama. It was the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
On October 14, 1964, Dr. King won the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. He was instrumental in the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965.
Dr. King was planning a national occupation of Washington, D.C., to be called the Poor People’s Campaign, when he was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. His death was followed by riots in many U.S. cities.
He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a holiday in numerous cities and states beginning in 1971; the holiday was enacted at the federal level by legislation signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986.
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