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Martin Luther King Jr.

Biography for Kids

  • Occupation: Civil Rights Leader
  • Born: January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, GA
  • Died: April 4, 1968 in Memphis, TN
  • Best known for: His "I have a dream" speech
Biography:

Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights activist in the 1950s and 1960s. He led non-violent protests to fight for the rights of all people including African Americans. He hoped that America and the world could become a colorblind society where race would not impact a person's civil rights. He is considered one of the great orators of modern times and his speeches still inspire many to this day.

Where did Martin grow up?

Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, GA on January 15, 1929. He went to Booker T. Washington High School. He was so smart that he skipped two grades in high school and started his college education at Morehouse College at the young age of fifteen. After getting his degree in sociology from Morehouse, Martin got a divinity degree from Crozer Seminary and then got his doctor's degree in theology from Boston University.

Martin's dad was a preacher which inspired Martin to pursue the ministry as well. He had a younger brother and an older sister. In 1953 he married Coretta Scott. Later they would have four children Yolanda, Martin, Dexter, and Bernice.

How did he get involved in civil rights?

In his first major civil rights action, Martin Luther King Jr. led the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This started when Rosa Parks refused to move to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. As a result, Martin led a boycott of the public transportation system. The boycott lasted for over a year. It was very tense at times. Martin was arrested and his house was bombed, but in the end he prevailed and segregation on the Montgomery busses ended.

When did King give his famous "I have a Dream" speech?

In 1963 Martin Luther King, Jr. helped to organize the famous March on Washington. Over 250,000 people attended this march in an effort to show the importance of civil rights legislation. Some of the issues the march hoped to accomplish included an end to segregation in public schools, protection from police abuse, and to get laws preventing discrimination in employment.

It was at this march where Martin gave his "I have a Dream" speech. This speech has become one of the most famous speeches in history. The march and Martin's speech were a success. The Civil Rights Act was passed a year later in 1964.

How did he die?

Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4. 1968 in Memphis, TN. He was shot by James Earl Ray while standing on the balcony of his hotel.

Fun Facts about Martin Luther King Jr.

  • King was the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a national holiday.
  • At the Atlanta premier of the movie Gone with the Wind, Martin sang with his church choir.
  • There are over 730 streets in the United States named after Martin Luther King Jr.
  • One of his main influences was Mohandas Gandhi who taught protesting in a non-violent manner.
  • He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  • The name on his original birth certificate is Michael King. This was a mistake, however. He was supposed to be named after his father who was named for the leader of the Christian reformation movement, Martin Luther.
  • He is often referred to by his initials MLK.
To learn more about Civil Rights:

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