The Life and Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Back to Article
Back to Article

The Life and Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Grayson Joslin

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Monday, January 21st marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This day when we (sometimes) get a day off of school was enacted whenever President Ronald Reagan signed a bill in 1983 making the third Monday of January a national holiday honoring the life and the legacy of the late Baptist minister and civil rights activist. He is one of only two people (the other being George Washington) to have their birthdays become national holidays.

The life of Martin Luther King Jr. begins on January 15th, 1929, when he was born the son of Michael King Sr. and Alberta Williams King. Michael King Sr. became the pastor a local church in Atlanta when Martin was only two years old. In 1936 King Jr., the middle child of the family, was baptized. King attended Booker T. Washington High School for his secondary education, and by his senior year at the school, he had decided to pursue becoming a pastor, just like his father.

Martin Luther King Jr. became thrust into the spotlight in December 1955. Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white person (segregation was still the norm in the Southern United States at the time). This began the Montgomery Bus Boycott, as African-Americans in the city refused to ride the public transport. King was the young, charismatic leader of this boycott. King’s nonviolent methods of boycott, echoing those methods of Gandhi, ignited the Civil Rights Movement in the South.

On August 28, 1963, the March on Washington occurred in our nation’s capital.  King was one of the main organizers of this event and the march drew 250,000 to 300,000 people. However, the lasting legacy of this march was King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. This 16-minute speech has become one of the most recognizable speeches of the past 100 years and cemented King’s place in United States history.

In 1964, King added to his successes by becoming the recipient of the Nobel Peace Price after his leading role in desegregation in the United States. He was still a major name in the years after the March on Washington and had become one of the most beloved Americans at the time.

However, the non-violent pastor from Atlanta would have his life end in an violent way. On April 4th, 1968, a day after giving a speech supporting a boycott, a white man named James Earl Ray shot and killed King on the balcony of his hotel in Memphis. The nation mourned, and in some cities, rioted, after learning the death of the civil rights icon.

The legacy of the life of Martin Luther King Jr has only grown since his untimely death. He has become one of the most well-known and recognizable Americans in the history of this country. He was a trailblazer in every form of the word, and he is deserving of a day honoring his fight for the equality of African-Americans.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email