Born in Atlanta on January 15, 1929, Martin Luther attended segregated public schools and graduated from high school at age fifteen. He received a B.A. in sociology in 1948 from Morehouse College, a distinguished Negro institution in Atlanta. In 1951, he graduated from Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Divinity, where he was elected president of a predominantly white senior class. He received his Doctorate in 1955 from Boston University. Here he met and married Coretta Scott. The couple had two sons and two daughters.
In 1954, Martin Luther King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. King was now a member of the executive committee of the NAACP. In December, 1955, he accepted the leadership position in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, lasting 382 days. On December 20, 1956, the Supreme Court ruling declaring the laws requiring segregation on buses unconstitutional came into effect. During the boycott, King was arrested, his home was bombed, and he was subjected to personal abuse. Dr. King overcame these tribulations and emerged as the period's most renowned, influential Civil Rights leader.
In 1957 he was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The ideals for this organization he took from Christianity and its operational techniques from Gandhi. From 1957-1968, King traveled over six million miles and spoke over twenty-five hundred times. Meanwhile, he wrote five books and numerous articles. He led a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama, inspiring his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail;" a manifesto of the Negro revolution.
MLK was part of drives in Alabama to register Black voters; in 1963 he directed the peaceful march on D.C. of 250,000 people to whom he delivered his address, "I Have a Dream;" he actively worked with powerful politicians, including the Kennedys; he was arrested upwards of 20 times and assaulted at least four times; he was awarded five honorary degrees; was named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1963; and at the age of thirty-five, MLK was the youngest man to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Dr. King donated the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the Civil Rights movement. Through his work, he became not only the symbolic leader of American blacks but also a world figure.
On the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers of that city, he was assassinated.