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January 18, 1988
Martin Luther King,
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March on Washington
by JOYCE ROGERS
Martin Luther King. Jr. was a great
American civil rights leader who worked
to bring about social, political and
economic equality for blacks. During the
1950‘s and 1960's, his eloquent pleas for
racial justice won the support of millions
ot people from all walks of life. King was
a Baptist minister who preached non
violent resistance modeled after Mohan
das K. Gandhi of India. King won the
1964 Nobel peace prize for leading the
black struggle for equality through non
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born
January 15, 1929, in Augusta. Georgia.
Until he was six years old. King and his
father were both named Michael. The
elder King changed their names in honor
of the German religious leader Martin
Luther. King’s father and his mother's
father were Baptist ministers. His other
grandfather was a sharecropper.
King graduated from Morehouse Ct)l-
Icge in 1948 at the age of 19. In 1951 he
graduated from Crozer Theological
Seminary and was awarded a Ph.D. in
systematic theology at Boston University
King’s career in the ministry began
in 1947 when he was ordained. He mar
ried Coretta Scott of Marion. Alabama,
in 1953 and became pastor of the Dexter
Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery a
In 1955 King began his civil rights
crusade. After Rosa Parks refused to give
up her seal on a bus to a white passenger.
King led a boycott of buses in
Montgomery to protest discrimination
against black passengers. The boycott suc
ceeded. and nonviolent protest took ott
In 1957 King helped establish the
Southern Christian Leadership Con
ference (SCLC) and became its fust presi
dent. The SCLC coordinated the work of
various civil rights groups. Also that year
King won the Springarn medal from the
NAACP for his civil rights work.
Nonviolent resistance achieved its
greatest success from 1955 to 1965 under
King’s leadership. He led demonstrations
and sit-ins in many parts of the country.
In 1963 he led a march in Birmingham.
Alabama, to protest citywide racial
discrimination. As a part of his 1965 cam
paign to guarantee voting rights for
blacks, he led a march from Selma to
The civil rights struggle received na
tional and worldwide attention as a result
of press coverage. Nations all over the
world were shocked to see innocent
people beaten, attacked by vicious dogs,
fire-hosed and jailed. Even the little
children were not spared. Foreign coun
tries were shocked to sec this going on in
America, supposedly the most advanced,
civilized country in the world, land of the
Consequently, more people, black
and white, lent their support to the civil
rights struggle. Together people march
ed 200.000-plus strong from the
Washington Monument to the Lincoln
Memorial in Washington. D.C. on August
28, 1963. Millions watched on television.
King told the crowd. "T have a dream that
one day this nation will rise up and live
out the true meaning of its creed.”
As a result of King's efforts. Con
gress enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964
and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
King was also an author. He express
ed his ideas in five books: Stride Toward
Freedom (1958). Strength to U>ve (1963),
Why IVe Can V Wait (1964), Where Do We
Go From Here: Chaos or Community?
(1967), and The Trumpet of Conscience
(1968). King also wrote the profound
Letter From A Birmingham Jail to
clergymen in response to criticism of his
King planned a “Poor People's
March " on Washington for 1968, but he
did not live to lead it. A hidden rifleman
shot and killed him on April 4. 1968. in
Memphis, Tennessee. James Earl Ray, a
white escaped convict, pleaded guilty to
the crime in March 1969. He was .sentenc
ed to 99 years in prison.
Marlin Luther King, Jr. left behind
a wife, four children, and a nation of
grieving people. But after almost 20 years
alter his death, the dream lives on .
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