Martin Luther King Junior was an American Minister and activist who eventually became the face of the civil rights movement until his assassination in 1968. King came from a comfortable middle-class family in Georgia that were proud of their tradition in Southern black ministry. You are more than likely familiar with his speech that was given at the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial called “I Have a Dream”. Few know that particular speech was given 6 years earlier before his stand in the national light. But what we witnessed was a non-violent protest in resistance against racial prejudice in America. This was not a proud time in American history for the country was divided in two with the violence and hatred coming from both sides.
Martin Luther King Jr, influenced by Mohandas Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi), showed the world that you can stand up for what you believe in and get issues and topics addressed without using violence. This shining example made Martin Luther King Jr. the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 35. He and his supporters showed the power of non-violent protest, even when met with violence, to speak truth to power. This had such a large effect on the public that it set major congressional activity into motion. King’s leadership efforts were instrumental in the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and eventually playing a part in the Fair Housing Act of 1968. These are just some of the things King did for America and why we celebrate him today.
Some things you may not know about Martin Luther King Jr.:
- President Reagan signed a bill to honor King making him one of only three Americans whose Birthday is celebrated as a national holiday. The other two are George Washington and Christopher Columbus.
- There are over 730 streets in America named after Martin Luther King Jr.
- Martin Luther King Junior’s first name was changed from Michael after his father visited Germany and was inspired by Protestant Reformation Leader Martin Luther, King Jr was 5 at the time.
- King entered college at the age of 15 and eventually receiving a Ph. D. from Boston College.