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Hello, my name is Martin Luther King, Jr. I was born on January 15, 1929. My parents were Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King. My mother was a teacher and she taught me to read before I started school. She also tried to explain prejudice and the Jim Crow laws that separated Whites and Blacks. She explained the Civil War and how it ended slavery, but not the hatred and prejudice between Blacks and Whites. We had a lot of
books at our house and at a young age I decided I would do well in a white manís world. My father was a preacher. He was a great example for me. He was a strong man and he was helpful in having Blacks get jobs with the police department and helping black teachers get the same pay as white teachers. I also remember my father refusing to sit in the back of a shoe store because he was black.
Learning About Discrimination
I went to school at Booker T. Washington High School. I was part of the debate team and had to travel to a different school for the debates. I was sitting near the front of the bus with my teacher. We were both black. It was common for black people to sit in the back because Whites thought they were better than Blacks. We didn't realize the bus was filling up. The driver told us to go to the back, but we refused. The driver then cursed and threatened us, and only because my teacher was in tears, we moved to the back. I felt terrible, but this gave me determination to fight prejudice.
I graduated from Booker T. Washington High School when I was 15 years old. I went to Morehouse College in Atlanta, where my father went. I had many ideas for a job, but my final decision was to become a minister. At the age of 17, I gave my first sermon as a preacher. At age 18, I became a minister, and a year later I graduated from Morehouse College.
After graduation, I traveled to Pennsylvania to study at the Crozer Theological Seminary. This was my first time being in a school with white people. They were all pretty nice to me. Although I had a few problems with a white boy, later we became friends. I graduated from Crozer in 1951 with honors. Then I went to Boston University to get my doctorate in theology. In February 1952, I met Correta Scott. She was a smart girl who was studying at the New England Conservatory of Music. We went to movies, dances, and operas together. We married in June of 1953. I had many job offers as a college dean. I could have worked in the south with my Father at Ebenezer Baptist Church or go up north, but I decided to go down south to work as the Pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, in Montgomery, Alabama.
Montgomery Bus Boycott
The next year in Montgomery, a woman named Rosa Parks was sitting in a section on a bus just behind the sign stating "Whites Only." Blacks and Whites were entering the bus and the driver asked Rosa to move, but she refused. The driver called the police and had her arrested. The next morning Mr. E.D. Nixon, who was a civil rights activist, called me and asked if I would help organize a one-day bus boycott of the Montgomery buses. We would request that Blacks not ride the buses that day. It was a busy time for me because our first child, Yolanda, was born.
It was rough for me, but I knew I had to help. The other ministers and I spoke to our congregations and told them about Rosa Parks and asked them to boycott the buses.
At 6:00 a.m. on Monday morning, my wife called, "Come quick!" We watched one bus after another go by our house empty. The boycott was a success! Blacks refused to ride the buses. Montgomery started its own bus boycott. The group that organized the bus boycott was called the Montgomery Improvement Association. I was chosen as the president. The boycott would not end after one day. The boycott would last until Blacks were able to sit wherever they pleased on the bus. I was arrested with many others for my involvement with the boycott.
Later that night when I was at a meeting, a bomb was thrown at my home. I was fearful for my family, but everyone was fine. Although I never knew for sure who threw it, I always thought it was a white man. I thought he did this because he didnít like what I did for Blacks.
Almost a year after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Jim Crow Laws were against the law. Jim Crow Laws would no longer stand for separation of Whites and Blacks. I had to continue on with my fight because I knew some Whites would still do the bad things they were doing.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott was so interesting that I wrote a book about it, The Stride towards Freedom. I was in a New York department store signing autographs when a black woman asked if I was Martin Luther King, Jr. When I told her that I was, she quickly pulled a letter opener from her purse and stabbed me. It was a serious injury and I was rushed to the hospital. If I moved the wrong way, coughed, or sneezed it could have been fatal. I had a three hour surgery. I asked that the woman who stabbed me not be jailed, but rather that she be treated at a mental hospital.
Leading Protests and Marches
With the other black leaders, we formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (S.C.L.C.) to fight Jim Crow Laws. I spoke all over the United States. I wanted all unfair laws changed. I wanted Blacks to register and vote. In early 1960 I left my position as Pastor of the Dexter Avenue Church and returned to Atlanta to work with my Father. I knew this would give me more time to work for the civil rights of Blacks.
In 1963, I led a march in Birmingham, Alabama and it became very violent. Police used fire hoses and dogs to limit the demonstration. It appeared that the police were more violent than the demonstrators. They even harmed small children who were in the march. I urged Blacks to meet violence with non-violence when something bad happened to them. Jim Crow lost in Birmingham. Blacks got to drink from the same fountains, eat at the same lunch counters, share the same bathrooms, and businesses would begin to hire Blacks.
I was involved in many other marches, including the biggest one in Washington. There were 200,000 Blacks and Whites who marched along with me. I was standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and there I gave my famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
In 1963, I was chosen as the man of the year by Time magazine. In 1964, I received the Nobel Peace Prize. Along with it came a great sum of money, which I gave to charity to help Blacks be more equal with Whites.
I led protests in Selma, Alabama and then a fifty-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, with Blacks and Whites to register the Blacks to vote.
I also met with Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson. These Presidents believed in getting rid of the laws that treated Blacks unfairly. Johnson helped push civil rights acts through Congress.
I was moving with my family up north to Chicago, where I was planning a march for poor Blacks, Whites, Indians, Mexicans, and Puerto Ricans. The day before the march, James Earl Ray, a man who could never get along with Blacks, assassinated me in Memphis, Tennessee. I brought peace to the world by trying to make Blacks and Whites one.
"FREE AT LAST"
Martin Luther King, Jr. Timeline
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