Martin Luther King, Jr., (January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968) was born Michael Luther King, Jr., but later had his name changed to Martin. His grandfather began the family’s long tenure as pastors of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, serving from 1914 to 1931; his father has served from then until the present, and from 1960 until his death Martin Luther acted as co-pastor. Martin Luther attended segregated public schools in Georgia, graduating from high school at the age of fifteen; he received the B. A. degree in 1948 from Morehouse College, a distinguished Negro institution of Atlanta from which both his father and grandfather had graduated. After three years of theological study at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania where he was elected president of a predominantly white senior class, he was awarded the B.D. in 1951. With a fellowship won at Crozer, he enrolled in graduate studies at Boston University, completing his residence for the doctorate in 1953 and receiving the degree in 1955. In Boston he met and married Coretta Scott, a young woman of uncommon intellectual and artistic attainments.
Two sons and two daughters were born into the family.
In 1954, Martin Luther King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Always a strong worker for civil rights for members of his race, King was, by this time, a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the leading organization of its kind in the nation. He was ready, then, early in December, 1955, to accept the leadership of the first great Negro nonviolent demonstration of contemporary times in the United States, the bus boycott described by Gunnar Jahn in his presentation speech in honor of the laureate. The boycott lasted 382 days. On December 21, 1956, after the Supreme Court of the United States had declared unconstitutional the laws requiring segregation on buses, Negroes and whites rode the buses as equals. During these days of boycott, King was arrested, his home was bombed, he was subjected to personal abuse, but at the same time he emerged as a Negro leader of the first rank.
In 1957 he was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization formed to provide new leadership for the now burgeoning civil rights movement. The ideals for this organization he took from Christianity; its operational techniques from Gandhi. In the eleven-year period between 1957 and 1968, King traveled over six million miles and spoke over twenty-five hundred times, appearing wherever there was injustice, protest, and action; and meanwhile he wrote five books as well as numerous articles. In these years, he led a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama, that caught the attention of the entire world, providing what he called a coalition of conscience. and inspiring his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, a manifesto of the Negro revolution; he planned the drives in Alabama for the registration of Negroes as voters; he directed the peaceful march on Washington, D.C., of 250,000 people to whom he delivered his address, “l Have a Dream”, he conferred with President John F. Kennedy and campaigned for President Lyndon B. Johnson; he was arrested upwards of twenty times and assaulted at least four times; he was awarded five honorary degrees; was named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1963; and became not only the symbolic leader of American blacks but also a world figure.
At the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.
On the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers of that city, he was assassinated.
He was a husband, a father, a preacher-and the preeminent leader of a movement that continues to transform America and the world. Martin Luther King, Jr., was one of the twentieth century’s most influential men and lived one of its most extraordinary lives. Now, in a special volume commissioned and authorized by his family, here is the life and times of Martin Luther King, Jr., drawn from a comprehensive collection of writings, recordings, and documentary materials, many of which have never before been made public.
Written in his own words, this history making autobiography is Martin Luther King: the mild-mannered, inquisitive child and student who chafed under and eventually rebelled against segregation; the dedicated young minister who continually questioned the depths of his faith and the limits of his wisdom; the loving husband and father who sought to balance his family’s needs with those of a growing, nationwide movement; and the reflective, world-famous leader who was fired by a vision of equality for people everywhere.
King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
In his role as SCLC president, Martin Luther King Jr. traveled across the country and around the world, giving lectures on nonviolent protest and civil rights as well as meeting with religious figures, activists and political leaders. (During a month-long trip to India in 1959, he had the opportunity to meet Gandhi, the man he described in his autobiography as “the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change.”)
In 1960 King and his family moved to Atlanta, his native city, where he joined his father as co-pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church. This new position did not stop King and his SCLC colleagues from becoming key players in many of the most significant civil rights battles of the 1960s. Their philosophy of nonviolence was put to a particularly severe test during the Birmingham campaign of 1963, in which activists used a boycott, sit-ins and marches to protest segregation, unfair hiring practices and other injustices in one of America’s most racially divided cities. Arrested for his involvement on April 12, King penned the civil rights manifesto known as the “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” an eloquent defense of civil disobedience addressed to a group of white clergymen who had criticized his tactics.
King Marches for Freedom
Later that year, Martin Luther King Jr. worked with a number of civil rights and religious groups to organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a peaceful political rally designed to shed light on the injustices African Americans continued to face across the country. Held on August 28 and attended by some 200,000 to 300,000 participants, the event is widely regarded as a watershed moment in the history of the American civil rights movement and a factor in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The march culminated in King’s most famous address, known as the “I Have a Dream” speech, a spirited call for peace and equality that many consider a masterpiece of rhetoric. Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial-a monument to the president who a century earlier had brought down the institution of slavery in the United States-he shared his vision of a future in which “this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’” The speech and March cemented King’s reputation at home and abroad; later that year he was named Man of the Year by TIME magazine and in 1964 became the youngest person ever awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
In the spring of 1965, King’s elevated profile drew international attention to the violence that erupted between white segregationists and peaceful demonstrators in Selma, Alabama, where the SCLC and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) had organized a voter registration campaign. Captured on television, the brutal scene outraged many Americans and inspired supporters from across the country to gather in Selma and take part in a march to Montgomery led by King and supported by President Lyndon Johnson (1908-1973), who sent in federal troops to keep the peace. That August, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, which guaranteed the right to vote-first awarded by the 15th Amendment-to all African Americans.
Adapted from the New York Times. April 5, 1968.
Jan. 15, 1929 to April 4, 1968
“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!”
With these words, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. built a crescendo to his final speech on April 3, 1968. The next day, the civil rights leader was shot and killed on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn.
At the roots Dr. King’s civil rights convictions was an even more profound faith in the basic goodness of man and the great potential of American democracy. These beliefs gave to his speeches a fervor that could not be stilled by criticism.
He rose in 1955 from a newly arrived minister in Montgomery, Ala. to a figure of national prominence. It was Dr. King who dramatized the Montgomery bus boycott with his decision to make it the testing ground, before the eyes of the nation, of his belief in the civil disobedience teachings of Thoreau and Gandhi.
Dr. King was involved in one of his greatest plans to dramatize the plight of the poor and stir Congress to help blacks. He called his venture the “Poor People’s Campaign.” —
Skills and Behavior of Martin Luther King, Jr
Leader must be a visionary and dare to follow that vision:
At a time when African Americans had to sit on designated seats on the bus, King dream of an America that would rise above color and creed. I am sure he faced the wrath of countless naysayers who thought that was Utopian and would never ever happen and look where we are today? The ability to DREAM and follow that VISION is a powerful attribute and history shows that some of the great leaders were even greater visionaries. If King didn’t dream of equal civic rights, we wouldn’t be living in a society where cultural differences are celebrated; if Steve Jobs were to listen to us and only build computers, we wouldn’t have revolutionary innovation like the iPhone
Leader must Be an effective communicator to build a movement:
To this day when I listen to Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, I am filled with a sense of emotion that inspires me to “Stop complaining and Do something productive.” That’s the power of effective communication. King’s theatrical skills surely served as an explosion to build the Civil Rights movement
Leader must Be inspired and inspire to pursue new directions:
One of my favorite Martin Luther King quotes is, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” In order to move forward no matter what the situation, one needs a perennial source of inspiration and a good leader is who has the ability to be inspired and also inspire his/her followers.
Be willing to walk the talk:
Martin Luther King travelled over six millions miles and gave over 2,500 speeches to fight for civil rights. That’s called literally walking the talk. The vision, the great speech, the inspiration would all fall flat if at the end of the day, as a leader you can’t walk the talk. Big dreams, big innovation, big campaigns and big ideas also rely on big execution. The willingness and ability to wear the execution hat and get your hands dirty is a great support that my leader can walk the talk.
As a leadership qualities king have a following qualities
It wasn’t one speech that put an end to segregation in the United States. It wasn’t one march, one demonstration, one sit-in. It was multiple attempts on various accounts that finally got the message out there. Martin Luther King, Jr. had to have patience throughout this time if he truly wanted to succeed. He knew that things wouldn’t change overnight-and you need to know this, too. Be patient with your startup-let it grow in increments each and every day. You will achieve your dream, it just takes time to get there
Obviously, it took mass amounts of courage to stand up to thousands, even millions, of people and state his dream. But Martin Luther King, Jr. made it known that what he wanted was equality and that he would fight till the end to see it through.
Martin Luther King, Jr was the one that took the leadership position during the fight for equality. He was the one that stepped up to the plate when no one else would and found the answers to everybody’s questions
Even from the confines of Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King, Jr. did not stop fighting for what he believed in. When the world was against him, he didn’t take breaks.
Those who followed Martin Luther King, Jr. trusted him with every bone in their bodies. They had full confidence that he would be the one to put a stop to discrimination and segregation.
King was a master of establishing the historical context for his message. He regularly started with stories from the Old Testament and modern history to make the point that the people in his movement were part of the broad sweep of history. That imbued them with a sense of mission
It’s well known that King delivered most of the “I Have a Dream” speech without any notes and that he improvised much of it on the spot. What’s not as well known is that he had been working with much of the content of that speech in other addresses he gave months and years before the March on Washington
King was also a master of using a simple, yet key phrase like “I have a dream,” again and again in his speeches. That kind of repetitive structure enabled him to clearly make his main point and at the same time make it easy for the audience to come along with him
King clearly met that definition of leadership. When he spoke, he told that story. Everyone in the audience knew that he was living that story before and after the speech.