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Who Was Martin Luther King Jr.?

18. January 2010 by Daniel 0 Comments

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States.


The federal holiday honors the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was a leader of the American Civil Rights movement and efforts to end racial segregation in the 1950s and 60s.


A minister in the Baptist church, King became a cultural hero and an American icon through his leadership in the movement. He first achieved widespread notice for leading what was known as the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama.


At that time, laws existed in some U.S. states that restricted African-Americans from certain activities. In 1955, a woman named Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a city bus. The incident led to the boycott, which King and others initiated, and eventually a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that declared such laws as unconstitutional.


King went on to lead several other nonviolent protests and acts of civil disobedience throughout the 1950s and 60s, advocating for racial desegregation and equality for all people.


His efforts helped lead to the 1963 March on Washington – a large political rally that took place in Washington D.C. that sought to advance the issue of civil rights. At the march, King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, in which he emphasized racial harmony, and which came to be known as a defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement and is widely considered one of the greatest speeches ever given. 

In recognition of his efforts to end racial segregation in America, King in 1964 became the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.


King was assassinated in 1968. Following his death, he became regarded as a national hero and an icon of both civil and human rights worldwide.


Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in his honor in 1986. A federal holiday, it is observed on the third Monday in January of each year, near the time of King’s birthday.