Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (File photo)

Early Life and Education

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an American revolutionist who was raised in Atlanta, Georgia. Born on January 15, 1929, Dr. King grew up amid racial segregation and social tension.

Both of his parents were college educated and he came from a well-endowed, middle-class family. Although he came from a well-established home, he still experienced prejudice.

As cited in Brittanica, when he was about six years old, King experienced one of his White playmates announcing that his parents would no longer agree to their playful congealment since the boys now attended segregated schools.

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Fueled by his observations, and later academic successes, King would soon go on to become one of the most influential people in American history.

Muhammad Ali with King. (AP photo)

Significant Dates

Sept. 20, 1944 – MLK Jr. began his freshman year at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. He was able to enroll at this institution due to a “wartime program.”

Aug. 6, 1946 – The Atlanta Constitution published King’s letter to the editor stating that Black people “are entitled to the basic rights and opportunities of American citizens.”

June 8, 1948 – King receives his Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from Morehouse College. King was introduced to Mahatma Ghana’s teachings of nonviolent resistance while enrolled at Morehouse.

Sept. 14, 1948 – He begins studying at Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania.

May 6-8, 1951 – King graduates from Crozer with a Bachelor of Divinity degree and he delivers the valedictory address at commencement.

Sept. 13, 1951 – He begins his graduate studies in systematic theology at Boston University.

June 18, 1953 – King and Coretta Scott marry in Alabama.

Sept. 1, 1954 – King begins pastoring at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.

June 5, 1955 – King earns his doctorate in systematic theology at Boston University.

During a visit to Los Angeles in 1964, King addressed thousands of people. (File photo)

Dec. 1, 1955 – Rosa Parks is arrested for refusing to give up her seat and move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, AL.

Dec. 5, 1955 – King becomes president of MIA, the Montgomery Improvement Association, after a mass meeting at Holt Street Baptist Church.

Jan. 30, 1956 – While speaking at a mass meeting. MLK’s home is bombed.

Nov. 13, 1956 – The U.S. Supreme Court declares the Montgomery and Alabama bus segregation laws unconstitutional.

Dec. 21, 1956 – Montgomery City Lines resume full service on all routes. King was one of the first to ride this newly integrated transport.

Jan. 10-11, 1957 – King is named chairman of the Southern Negro Leaders Conference on Transpiration and Nonviolent Integration (later known as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference or SCLC).

Feb. 18, 1957 – King appeared on the cover of Time magazine.

June 23, 1958 – King, along with other civil rights leaders, met with President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington, DC.

Dr. Martin Luther King speaks March 25, 1967 at the Chicago peace march. (AP Photo/Chick Harrity)

Sept. 20, 1958 – King was rushed to Harlem Hospital after being stabbed in the chest with a seven-inch letter opener by a deranged woman at his book signing at Blumstein’s Department Store in Harlem, New York.

Feb. 3, 1959 – King travels to India for a month-long visit. While there, he meets with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and many of Gandhi’s followers.

Oct. 16, 1961 – King meets with President John F. Kennedy and urges him to eliminate racial segregation by issuing a second Emancipation Proclamation.

July 27 – August 10, 1962 – King spends two weeks in jail after being arrested at an Albany, Georgia prayer vigil.

Sept. 28, 1962 – Dr. King is assaulted by a member of the American Nazi Party at the closing session of the SCLC conference in Birmingham, Alabama.

Aug. 28, 1963 – King delivers his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Oct. 10, 1963 – U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy authorizes the FBI to wiretap King’s home phone.

Mar. 26, 1964 – Martin Luther King Jr. meets Malcolm X in Washington, D.C. This would be the first and last time the two would see each other.

The plaque outside King’s room National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. (AP photo)

Dec. 1, 1964 – King meets with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover at the Justice Department.

Dec. 10, 1964 – King receives the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, where he receives an award of $54,000. He promises “every penny” will be used in the ongoing battle for civil rights.

Feb. 23, 1966 – King meets Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad in Chicago.

April 4, 1968 – King is shot and killed while standing on the balcony of Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

Nov. 2, 1983 – Pres. Ronald Reagan signs a bill creating federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

Aug. 22, 2011 – The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial opens in Washington D.C.  the centerpiece is a 30-foot statue of Dr. King.

(Some of this information was reprinted from The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University.)

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC.  (File photo)


Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy is engrained into the forefront of America’s ideals of freedom and the right all citizens have to this very notion. His dedication to nonviolence ignited efforts to dismantle institutionalized racism, which still exist today.

After his assassination, King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, began preserving and promoting his legacy. His estate continues to preserve King’s intellectual property (speeches, writings, sermons, etc.). Mrs. King founded The King Center (originally The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center) to honor and memorialize the life and work of her late husband.

All over the country, people gather to celebrate the life and legacy of a man who made extraordinary strides for a cause that was bigger than himself. One of his most memorable quotes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”