Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a Baptist minister, writer, and leader of the American Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s.

Photo via The King Center.

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    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born January 15th, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. His childhood instilled in him a strong Christian faith, with both grandfathers (and later his father) serving as Baptist preachers. Throughout his thirteen years as leader in the American Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King looked to his faith for political and civil rights protest methods. He is known for employing non-violent methods of protest such as peaceful marches, civil disobedience, and grassroots mobilization to fight for civil rights for African Americans. Dr. King also brought his non-violent philosophy to aid causes that were not unique to African American people including poverty, religious discrimination, and various international affairs, citing his belief that all people, regardless of race, were members of one human family.

    In 1948, Dr. King was ordained as a Baptist minister, following his father as assistant pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. In 1954, the King family relocated to Montgomery, where he began serving as pastor at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. He became highly active in the Civil Rights Movement in Montgomery after he was chosen to lead the city transit boycott in 1955. His activism and powerful public speaking ability quickly brought him national attention shortly thereafter.

    In 1957, Martin Luther King, Jr. was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a position he would hold until his assassination in 1968. His position with the SCLC allowed him to devise a national strategy for civil rights protest, and his nonviolent methods were common at protests held across the country. In 1964, Dr. King became the youngest person to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Dr. King was assassinated on April 4th, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.

    Adolphus Hailstork’s Songs of Love and Justice is among several musical works inspired by Dr. King’s writings and significance.

    Helen Bryant 

    This profile was created in 2023 as part of the Song of America Fellowship Program, a project of the Classic Song Research Initiative between the Hampsong Foundation and the University of Michigan, School of Music, Theatre, and Dance.

    Further Reading:

    -“About Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr..” The King Center, February 3, 2022.

    -“Martin Luther King, Jr..” NAACP, May 11, 2021.

    -“The Nobel Peace Prize 1964.”

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