The History of Martin Luther King Jr.
King is welcomed with a kiss by his wife Coretta Scott King after leaving court in Montgomery, Ala. He was found guilty of conspiracy to boycott city buses. The boycott was part of a campaign to desegregate the city's bus system. A judge suspended his $50
The US Dept. of State
It was December, 1955, and Martin Luther King, Jr. had just received his doctorate degree in theology. He had moved to Montgomery, Alabama to preach at a Baptist church. He saw there, as in many other southern states, that African-Americans had to ride in the back of public buses. Dr. King knew that this law violated the rights of every African-American. He organized and led a boycott of the public buses in the city of Montgomery. Any person, black or white, who was against segregation refused to use public transportation. Those people who boycotted were threatened or attacked by other people, or even arrested or jailed by the police. After one year of boycotting the bus system, the Supreme Court declared that the Alabama state segregation law was unconstitutional.
African-Americans were not only segregated on buses throughout the south. Equal housing was denied to them, and seating in many hotels and restaurants was refused.
In 1957, Dr. King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and moved back to his home town of Atlanta, Georgia. This was the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. In the years following, he continued to organize non-violent protests against unequal treatment of African-American people. His philosophy remained peaceful, and he constantly reminded his followers that their fight would be victorious if they did not resort to bloodshed. Nonetheless, he and his demonstrators were often threatened and attacked. Demonstrations which began peacefully often ended up in violence, and he and many others were often arrested.
On August 23, 1963, a crowd of more than 250,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C. and marched to the Capitol Building to support the passing of laws that guaranteed every American equal civil rights. Martin Luther King was at the front of the “March on Washington.” On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial* that day, Dr. King delivered a speech that was later entitled “I Have a Dream.” The March was one of the largest gatherings of black and white people that the nation’s capital had ever seen… and no violence occurred.
One year later, the Civil Rights Act of 1964* was passed. It was not the first law of civil rights for Americans, but it was the most thorough and effective. The act guaranteed equal rights in housing, public facilities, voting, and public schools. Everyone would have impartial hearings and jury trials. A civil rights commission would ensure that these laws were enforced. Martin Luther King and thousands of others now knew that they had not struggled in vain.
In 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated while he was leading a workers’ strike in Memphis, Tennessee. White people and black people who had worked so hard for peace and civil rights were shocked and angry. The world grieved the loss of this man of peace.
King looks at a bullet hole in the glass door of his rented beach cottage in St. Augustine, Fla. The bullet came from an unknown shooter. King took time out from conferring with St. Augustine integration leaders to inspect the house, which was empty at the time of the shooting. King was a constant target of violence by segregationists.