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Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King in 1964Martin Luther King in 1964 Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968) was a Baptist minister who became a leader of the civil rights movement in the USA in the 1950s and 1960s. He used methods of non-violent civil disobedience to fight for equal rights for African Americans. His powerful speeches spurred millions of people to protest against racial discrimination and poverty. In 1964 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was assassinated in 1968. Martin Luther King changed the course of history in the USA. He showed that non-violence was an extremely powerful weapon. Every year, his birthday, 15th January, is remembered in the USA by a national holiday, and his example still inspires people all over the world to stand up for justice and equality.

King's boyhood home in Atlanta, GeorgiaKing's boyhood home in Atlanta, Georgia

Early life

Martin Luther King was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on 15th January 1929. His father was pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in a fairly prosperous Atlanta neighbourhood. His mother, Alberta Williams King, was a schoolteacher. But despite these comfortable surroundings, Martin Jr. was aware of racial discrimination from an early age. When he was a small child, parents of white playmates cut short their sons’ friendship with Martin because of his skin colour.

As he grew older, King became more and more aware of discrimination against African Americans in all public places in his home town—buses, shops, theatres and restaurants. Working on a tobacco farm in Connecticut one summer, he was struck by how different race relations were in the northern states of the USA, where there was no segregation.

King had not been intending to give the “I have a dream” portion of his history-making 1963 speech in Washington, as he felt he had used it too many times. He was winding up his prepared speech when his friend, the gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, called out, twice: “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin.”

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