Leadership

When was Martin Luther King born?

Martin Luther King became the most significant and influential civil rights leader in the United States. The civil rights leader who never backed down in his stand against racism. Keep on reading to learn more about the life of this courageous hero who inspired millions of people, his life, and when Martin Luther King was born.

Martin Luther King was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, when the country was under the influence of unjust laws for different races. There was segregation or separation of races even in schools, restaurants, and buses; this different behaviour was a law.

He experienced racial prejudice since childhood and was so affected that he spent his life trying to attain justice for all colours in America. Being a Baptist minister and social activist, he led the civil rights movement in the United States from the mid 1950s till his death by assassination in 1968.

King believed that the peaceful refusal of unjust laws was the best way to bring social change. His struggle was about ending the legal segregation of African Americans in the South and other parts of the United States.

When was Martin Luther King born and raised?

King was born Micheal Luther King on January 15, 1929, as one of the three children of Martin Luther King Sr. He was initially named Micheal after his father. Still, after five years, they changed the name to the elder King as a Baptist Minister attended an international conference in Germany. After that trip, King Sr. changed his and his first son’s names at six in honour of a Protestant reformer, Martin Luther.

King came from a reasonable middle-class family that was part of a Southern Black ministry. Both his father and grandfather were Baptist preachers, and King’s father had succeeded his father-in-law as pastor of the prestigious Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

The family lived on Auburn Avenue, also known as “Black Wall Street,” which was home to the country’s most prominent and prosperous Black businessmen and churches before the civil rights movement.

Education and spiritual growth

After attending local grammar and high schools, King enrolled in Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1944. Initially, he had no plans to enter the ministry. Still, he met Dr. Benjamin Mays, President of Morehouse College, who greatly inspired King and felt that a religious career could be intellectually satisfying.

Although his family was deeply involved in the church and worship, King questioned religion in various aspects and felt uncomfortable over intense emotional displays of religious worship. This discomfort continued and made him, at a certain point, go against the ministry.

In junior years, King took Bible class, renewed his faith, and began thinking about a ministry career. During his senior year’s fall, King joined the ministry.

May was a social gospel activist and an outspoken advocate for racial equality, and his manner and bearing convinced King to view Christianity as a potential for social change. King earned a sociology degree from Morehouse College and attended the Liberal Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. He performed well in all his studies and was valedictorian in 1951. Additionally, he was elected student body president and earned a fellowship for graduate study.

Before beginning college, King spent the summer on a tobacco farm in Connecticut, his first extended stay from home, where he experienced race relations outside the segregated South. He was shocked at how races mixed in the North peacefully.

In a letter to his parents, he stated, “Negroes and Whites go to the same church.” This experience in the North made Kings hate this racial segregation more.

In Crozer Theological Seminary, King won the Plafker award as the outstanding student of the graduating class and for the J. Lewis Crozer fellowship as well. Along with all these distinctions, King is against his father’s more conservative influence while at college. He even became involved with a white woman and faced a hard time before the breakup.

After being accepted at several colleges for his doctoral study, King enrolled at Boston University. King completed the coursework for his doctorate in 1953 and was then granted the degree two years after completing the dissertation.

During his doctorate, King met Coretta Scot, an aspiring singer, and musician at the New England Conservatory school in Boston. Later married in June 1953, from whom he had four children named Yolanda, Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott, and Bernice.

In 1954, when working on their dissertation, King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, back in the South. He completed his Ph.D. and earned the degree in 1955 when he was only 25 years old.

Hence, young Martin received a solid education and grew up in a loving extended family. But this secure upbringing did not prevent King from experiencing the prejudices common in the South. He had deep impressions of when he was just six, and one of his white playmates announced that his parents would no longer allow him to play with King as they were now attending segregated schools.

In his early years, he went through the grief of his maternal grandmother’s death. King was so upset at that time that at 12 years old, he attempted suicide by jumping from a second-story window while attending a parade without his parent’s permission.

Montgomery bus boycott

Martin Luther King was the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church pastor in Montgomery, Alabama. After more than a year of taking charge as a pastor, the city’s small group of civil rights advocates decided to contest racial segregation on the city’s bus system. The contest followed the incident on December 1, 1955, during which an African American woman Rosa Parks refused to surrender her bus seat for a White passenger and was arrested for violating the city’s segregation law.

Activists formed the Montgomery Improvement Association to boycott the transit system. As previously on March 2, 1955, a 15-years old girl refused to give up her seat for a man, and due to violation of segregation law, teenager Claudette Colvin was arrested and taken to jail.

Later revealed that Colvin was pregnant, and civil rights leaders feared that it would scandalise the deeply religious black community and that she would not be eligible to get sympathy from the White people.

But later when the incident happened with 42-years old Rosa Parks, who was going home after an exhausting day at work and was sitting in a row of coloured sections. While travelling, all the seats in the white section filled up, and several standing White men demanded that several African Americans give up their seats.

Three other African Americans reluctantly gave up their seats, but Parks remained seated. The driver asked her twice, but she refused; Park got arrested and booked for violating the Montgomery City Code.

After a week, Park was found guilty after a 30 minute hearing, fined $10, and assessed a $4 court fee. As she got arrested, the head of the local NAACP met with King and other civil rights leaders, and they planned a Montgomery Bus Boycott. King was elected to lead the boycott as he was young, energetic, and well-trained, with solid family connections, professional standing, and strong credibility with the Black community.

In his first speech, Luther declared, “We have no alternative but to protest. For many years, we have shown amazing patience. We have sometimes given our White brothers the feeling that we liked the way we were being treated. But we come here tonight to be saved from the patience that makes us patient with anything less than freedom and justice.”

The bus boycott involved 382 days of walking to work, harassment, violence, and intimidation of Montgomery’s African American community, attacking even the leader’s home. But the African American community, too, took legal action. Eventually, defeated in several lower court rulings along with financial losses, the city of Montgomery lifted the law mandating segregated public transportation.

After this episode, the country had a fresh voice, skillful rhetoric, an inspiring figure, and a dynamic doctrine of civil struggle. Despite all the atrocities, King continued to lead the boycott unless he achieved his goal and succeeded in deteriorating the segregation law after one year and a few weeks due to his persistence.

Brave sacrifices

Martin Luther King was arrested many times during his lifetime while struggling for the rights of the African American community. In 1960, he joined Black college students sitting at a segregated lunch counter.

After the Greensboro sit-in, King and 75 students earned a local department store and requested lunch-counter service but were denied, and on the refusal to leave the counter, King and 36 others were arrested.

To deal with the city’s reputation, Atlanta’s mayor negotiated, and charges were eventually dropped. King was imprisoned for violating his probation on a traffic conviction. Kennedy expressed concern for King’s harsh treatment for the traffic ticket that set political pressure in motion.

Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy intervened to help King be released from jail, and that act helped Kennedy win the presidency. King inspired a large crowd; as raised in a family of preachers, he was considered one of the most outstanding speakers in the history of the United States.

Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech

King also advocated for oppressed groups like Black South African Americans living under apartheid. After receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, King stated, “The great masses of people are determined to end the exploitation of their races and land.”

Southern Christian leadership conference

All the African American leaders felt the need for a national organisation to help coordinate their efforts. In January 1957, King, along with Ralph Abernathy and sixty ministers and other civil rights activists, led the foundation for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to achieve the moral authority of Black churches.

The essential purpose was to help conduct non-violent protests to promote rights reform. The organisation started raising voices for the role of African Americans in voting. Even in 1958, SCLC sponsored more than 20 mass meetings in critical Southern cities to register black voters in the South. King performed effectively by meeting religious and civil rights leaders and spoke almost all over the country on race-related issues.

King favoured non-violent activism, praised Mahatma Gandhi, and even visited his birthplace, which enhanced his struggle for civil rights. African American civil rights activist Bayard Rustin studied Gandhi’s teachings of nonviolence and became King’s associate. Rustin served as King’s mentor and adviser and was the main organiser of the 1963 march on Washington.

Rustin counselled King to dedicate himself to the principles of nonviolence. But Rustin was controversial for being a homosexual and for his alleged ties to the Communist party. Many of King’s other fellows and supporters urged him to distance himself from Rustin.

Greensboro Sit-In

In 1960, in Carolina, the students would sit at racially segregated lunch counters in the city’s stores. When they were asked to leave or sit in the coloured section, the African American students remained seated. This behaviour subjected them to verbal or sometimes physical abuse.

The group of African American students began the Greensboro sit-in movement, quickly gaining traction in different cities. The SCLC held a conference with local sit-in leaders at Shaw University in Carolina. Kings made students continue with non-violent methods during the protests.

The Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee was formed and was working with the SCLC. In 1960, sit-ins successfully ended segregation at lunch courses in 27 Southern cities.

Meanwhile, King gained national exposure, became co-pastor with his father, and continued his civil rights efforts.

King started the movement for non-violent protests against racial segregation in the mid-1950s and is best known for his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington, D.C., United States. He gave that speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial towards the end of the March on Washington.

He addressed around 200,000 people or more while imagining the future of his community. He stated, “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former enslavers could sit down together at the table of brotherhood, a future in which his four children are judged not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.” All the words he put in public were central to his legacy.

Achievement of the civil right movement

In 1964, there were two main achievements of the civil right movement: the rectification of the 24th Amendment, which included the abolishment of the poll tax, and the other one was the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited racial discrimination in employment and education along with outlawed racial segregation in public facilities.

Nobel peace prize

King was the youngest to win the Nobel peace prize due to his non-violent struggles against racial injustice. Later, Malala Yousafzai gained the title of the youngest Nobel peace prize achiever in 2014.

It always appreciated King’s patience, non-violent approach, and appeal to white middle-class citizens. Black militants considered his methods too weak, too late, and ineffective. He broadened his spectrum by forming a multi-racial coalition to address the economic and unemployment problems of all the less privileged.

Bloody Sunday

In 1965, during a civil rights march turned violent when police attacked with nightsticks and tore gas when protestors tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. King was not there, and demonstrators were bloodied and severely injured on that “Bloody Sunday.”

Voting Rights Act

They cancelled a second march due to a restraining order to prevent the march from taking place. In the third march, King ensured he would participate in dealing with the situation. In March 1965, 2,500 marches set out again to cross the same bridge and confront barricades and state troops. King led his followers to kneel in prayer rather than confrontation.

Alabama’s governor tried to prevent another march until the President intervened and ordered U.S. army troops and Alabama National Guard to protect the protestors. Once again, around 2,000 people began a march from Selma to Montgomery; meanwhile, the number of marchers increased to 25,000.

After five months of peaceful protest, President Johnson signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act. From 1965 to 1967, King expanded his civil rights efforts in Chicago, Los Angeles, and other larger American cities. But he faced intense criticism and public challenges from Black young power leaders.

When did Martin Luther King die?

We have mentioned earlier that Martin Luther King was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. And here is the answer: when did Martin Luther King die? He was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. Amidst his marches, he grew tired, went to jail, lived under constant death threats, was massively discouraged by the slow progress of civil rights in America, and faced criticism from various African American leaders.

King was working on poverty plans but interrupted and lent his support to the Memphis sanitation men’s strike as he planned ano ther march on Washington to bring attention to the widening range of issues. But in 1968, a labour strike by Memphis sanitation workers took his attention to stand.

He gave an incredible prophetic speech. “I have been to the mountaintop,” he told supporters at the Mason Temple in Memphis, “I have seen the promised land. I may not get there by you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get the promised land.”

After this prophetic speech, the next day, while standing on a balcony outside his room at the Lorraine Motel, King was killed by a sniper’s bullet. A crowd of mourners follows the casket of King through the streets of Atlanta, Georgia. Americans honour the civil rights activist on the third Monday of January each year, Martin Luther King day.

King was shot by James Earl Ray, who was eventually apprehended after a two-month international chase. Later Ray confessed to the crime and was sentenced to a 99-year prison. The assassination sparked riots and racial violence resulting in more than 40 deaths and extensive property damage in more than 100 American cities.

In March 1969, during a standing trial, Ray forwent seeking the death penalty, and he pled guilty to murder charges. The circumstances after the plea became controversial when Ray recanted his confession after the prison announcement.

The following years of King’s assassination fueled certain doubts due to the inadequacy of the case against Ray. And there were revelations of extensive surveillance of King by the FBI and other government agencies.

In 1976, the House Select Committee on Assassinations re-examined the evidence concerning the assassination, and due to concern of President John.F. Kennedy, the Committee’s final report suggested that Ray may have had co-conspirators. But there was no convincing evidence of government complicity in King’s assassination.

Ray’s lawyer made popular support to reopen the case in 1993, and even later, the King’s family publicly supported Ray’s appeal for a new trial. Mainly King’s son Dexter Scott King supported Ray’s claims of innocence during a televised prison encounter.

Despite all the support, the Tennessee authorities refused to reopen the King’s assassination case, and Ray died in prison on April 23, 1998. Even after the death of Ray, the conspiracy allegations continued on the surface.

How old would MLK be today?

Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968 when he was not even 40 years old, as he was born in 1968 and died at the age of 39 years. If we figure precisely, he lived 14 324 days; his exact age was 39 years, two months, and 20 days. If Martin Luther King were alive today, he would be 94 years old, as roughly estimated.

Conclusion

Everyone wants to know about the civil rights activist, his struggles, and when Martin Luther King was born. Prime mover of the Montgomery bus boycott, historic speaker during the march on Washington, and youngest Nobel Peace Prize holder at that time.

He was the most respectful due to his policy of non-violent protest, a dominant force in the civil rights movements, and he got the most outstanding achievements. In his last days, he carried out certain more comprehensive activities, such as the war in Vietnam, and he started getting the attention of government services.

During his support of the anti-poverty campaign, King was assassinated in Memphis, causing plenty of unrest in big cities. After his death, King was awarded many awards and recognitions to acknowledge his contribution to society.