Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

As pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala, and later as leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spread the message that "I am somebody," kindling a new sense of dignity for black and poor people. His philosophy of nonviolent resistance was inspired in part by a visit to India, where he studied civil disobedience.

The son of the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, King's lectures raised international awareness of civil injustices while the movements and marches he spearheaded resulted in important changes in American life. King's courage in the face of opposition led to 30 arrests in his lifetime, shaped 13 years of civil rights activities and inspired men and women of all ages in the United States and abroad.

King's speeches and letters are among the most influential documents in our nation's history, raising and changing the conscience of an entire generation. Legislative changes that resulted from his leadership include the Civil Rights Act Of 1964 – which outlawed segregation in public accommodations and discrimination in education and employment – and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which ultimately banned literacy tests and other restrictions that prevented blacks from voting. When he was assassinated in 1968, King was only 39 years old.

He held a doctoral degree in philosophy from Boston University, yet throughout his lifetime he had received 20 honorary degrees from numerous colleges and universities in the United States and several foreign countries.

Among the hundreds of awards he had received for his dedication was the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964.


1956- After leading a 381-day black boycott of segregated city bus lines in Montgomery, Ala., King gained a major milestone for civil rights when the buses began to operate on a desegregated basis.

1963- King organized the March on Washington (D.C.) for Jobs and Freedom, attended by 250,000 people. It was the largest demonstration ever seen in the nation's capital at that time and received international television coverage.

1964- At age 35, King was the youngest man, the second American, and the third black man awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.