By: Black History Year Round Directory
Martin Luther King Jr. (born Michael King Jr.; January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American Baptist minister and activist, one of the most prominent leaders in the civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. An African American church leader and a son of early civil rights activist and minister Martin Luther King Sr., King advanced civil rights for people of color in the United States through nonviolence and civil disobedience. Inspired by his Christian beliefs and the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi, he led targeted, nonviolent resistance against Jim Crow laws and other forms of discrimination.
Instead of finishing the 12th grade and going through a formal high-school graduation, Dr. King was accepted into and enrolled at Morehouse College at age 15, where he completed a Bachelor’s degree in sociology. On top of receiving two Bachelor’s degrees (one in sociology from Morehouse College and the other in divinity from The Crozer Theological Seminary), King went on to earn a Ph.D. from Boston University in 1955, making him a doctor of philosophy.
He was also awarded at least 20 honorary degrees in later years. Washington State University reported that Dr. King was awarded honorary doctorates from Howard University, Bard College, Yale, Wesleyan, and many other higher-education institutions across the US and the world.
During his short, 12-year career in the public eye, Dr. King delivered an astounding number of public speeches. It’s estimated that between his weekly sermons at church and media appearances, he spoke an average of 450 times per year, according to CNN.
Although the famed “I Have a Dream” speech will always hold a special place in history, it certainly wasn’t the only memorable address he delivered during his life.
Some people believe his last speech foreshadowed his death.
The day before Dr. King was assassinated, he gave a speech in Memphis, Tennessee, to offer support for sanitation workers who had received unfair treatment by their bosses.
The goal of this address was to push for union representation, safer working conditions, and living wages.
He told the crowd, “And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”
In the aftermath of his death, some people found the language he used to be an eerie indication that he knew his death was imminent.
He won a Grammy award.
One of Dr. King’s most controversial addresses went on to receive a high honor.
The speech, referred to as “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam” and “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam,” was recorded on vinyl and earned him a postmortem Grammy for best spoken-word recording in 1970.
He is still the youngest man to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 1964, King received this global honor for his unwavering commitment to civil rights, nonviolence, and helping the US government move toward making discrimination unlawful.
He was 35 years old then, making him the youngest male recipient to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
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