Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist minister from Georgia who led the non-violent civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
A Brief Biography

Born on January 15, 1929, the son and grandson of Baptist ministers, Dr. King decided to become a minister himself, and to devote his ministry to gaining freedom and respect for African Americans.

As a teenager and young adult, Dr. King studied the ideas of some of the world's most powerful thinkers, on the subjects of good and evil and the nature of the human spirit.  He was inspired by the example of Mahatma Gandhi's civil disobedience in India and became committed to the philosophy of non-violence.

In 1954, less than a year after his June 18, 1953 marriage to Coretta Scott, Dr. King agreed to become the minister of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. His leadership in the African American community was quickly recognized, and in 1955 he was chosen to lead and organize the Montgomery bus boycott.  Also in 1955, Dr. King graduated from Boston University with a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology.

The Montgomery bus boycott made Dr. King nationally famous.  He and other southern church-based civil rights activists formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The purpose of this organization was to support and organize civil rights activism throughout the South.  A gifted orator, Dr. King traveled continually to speak at civil rights meetings, eventually resigning his ministry at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church to become a full-time civil rights proponent.

Dr. King personified the American civil rights movement. His carefully planned campaigns exposed and publicized the hidden violence that maintained racist practices. In 1964, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as well as being named by Time Magazine as "Man of the Year."

Dr. King evoked strong emotions in people.  He insisted on following his conscience regardless of any negative consequences that he had to endure.  His stand against the Vietnam War earned him criticism even from within the civil rights movement.

Dr. King was shot and killed by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968.  Riots immediately erupted throughout the country.  President Johnson declared a day of national mourning on April 7, 1968.  Dr. King's funeral was held at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia on April 9, 1968.

The first United States Postal Service (USPS) commemorative stamp to honor Dr. King was issued on January 13, 1979.  In 1999, the USPS issued another stamp commemorating Dr. King, his I Have a Dream speech, and the 1963 march on Washington., DC.

In 1986, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was first celebrated as a federal legal holiday.  The third Monday of January was chosen to honor the birthday of Dr. King for this holiday each year.  
The holiday honors not only Dr. King but the words which he spoke and lived:

"I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality . . . I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word."

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