By Cyan St. Clair
Who was MLK?
Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights activist during the 50s and 60s and Baptist minister. He was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia to Martin Luther King Sr. and Alberta Williams King. He was raised in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood which was one of the most prosperous African American neighborhoods in the south at the time. He grew up as a middle child with an older sister and younger brother. As a child, MLK wanted to be a fireman but coming from a long line of preachers, that wasn’t in his future. He grew up in the church as his father was a pastor. He began schooling at the age of 6 at the segregated public school and went to Morehouse College at the age of 15 where he studied medicine and law. During his time in college, he was influenced by Dr. Benjamin Mays who was a theologian and outspoken advocate for racial equality. He had not planned to follow the path of his father but in the end, he did. He graduated in 1948. He went to Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania where he obtained a Bachelor of Divinity degree. After CTS, he enrolled in Boston University where he graduated in 1953 with a doctorate in systematic theology. Boston University is where he met Coretta Scott. They got married in 1953 and moved to Montemgry, Alabama where MLK became a pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.
His future as a civil rights activist
The Montgomery Bus Boycott jumpstarted MLK’s career as a civil rights activist. Activists across Montgomery coordinated this boycott to retaliate against the arrest of Rosa Parks and choose MLK to be the leader and spokesman. MLK was heavily influenced by Gandhi, Henry David Thoreau, and Bayard Rustin which led him to take an non-violence standpoint in the civil rights movement. During the boycott, his house was bombed, he was arrested, and subjected to abuse but this all lead him to rise as a substainal figure. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference was an organization that helped provide new leadership for the civil rights movement. MLK was elected president of the organization in 1957. Up until his death, he traveled 6 million miles, spoke 2,500 times, and wrote 5 books. Some of the most historical things he did was the protest in Birmingham, Alabama, his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, and the march on Washington where he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech to over 250,000 people. He was assassinated by James Earl Ray on April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel in Memphis, Tennessee.
Why do we celebrate MLK day and when did it become a national holiday?
Martin Luther King Jr Day is celebrated every year on the third Monday of January. It is celebrated in January because MLK’s birthday was January 15. We celebrate MLK because of what an impact he made in the civil rights movement. We honor his life,
works, and dedication he had to make America a place where people of all races had equal rights and opportunities. MLK day became a national holiday on January 20, 1986 and was signed by President Ronald Reagan.
Fun facts about MLK
- He was actually born as Micheal Luther King Jr.
- He is the only non-president to have their birthday as a national holiday.
- He almost died a decade before his assassination when a woman at a booksigning stabbed him with a letter opener.
- He was arrested about 30 times during his time as a civil rights activist.
- There are about 900 streets across America named after MLK.
- He is the youngest man, 35 years of age, to receive a Nobel Peace Prize.