Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968)

African American clergyman and civil rights leader. By the age of twenty-six, the Atlanta-born King had completed his undergraduate education, finished divinity school, and received a Ph.D. in religion from Boston University. In 1956 King took a public stand to support blacks boycotting segregated buses in Montgomery, Alabama, marking his entry into the civil rights struggle. Soon he became a major figure in the civil rights movement, advocating nonviolent protest in the spirit of Jesus’ teachings and Mahatma Gandhi’s principles of passive resistance. In 1963, Birmingham, Alabama, perhaps the most segregated city in the South, became the focal point for violent racial confrontations; 2,400 civil rights workers, King among them, were jailed, occasioning his now-famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” In 1964, at thirty-five, he became the youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. King was assassinated on April 14, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. See also