Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968) was a Baptist minister and a leader of the Civil Rights Movement. Born in Georgia, King studied at Morehouse College before going on to seminary and then earning a doctorate from Boston University. King moved to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1964 to lead the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Soon after his arrival, on December 1, 1955, African American seamstress and NAACP member Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. King and others quickly formed the Montgomery Improvement Association and organized a boycott of the Montgomery County transit system. The boycott lasted more than a year and led to the integration of the bus system. It also propelled King into the public eye as a leader of the Civil Rights Movement. Soon after the boycott’s success, King established the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) as a platform for continuing civil rights activities. During a trip to India in 1959, King became more dedicated to the notion of non-violent resistance once employed by Mahatma Gandhi.

In 1960, King was arrested and jailed after taking part in a sit-in demonstration in Atlanta. In 1963, he was arrested again for leading demonstrations in Birmingham. While jailed, King penned his “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” calling on clergy members to support the Civil Rights Movement as a moral imperative. In August of that year, King helped organize the March on Washington, where he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech to more than 200,000 marchers. He led other demonstrations, rallies, and marches—including the Selma to Montgomery march of 1965. In his final years, King continued his work for civil rights while also agitating against the Vietnam War and poverty. In April 1968, he traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, to support a strike by city sanitation workers. There, King was assassinated outside his hotel; white segregationist James Earl Ray was later convicted of the murder.

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