FAQ - History & Social Studies

Who is Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. 


Who is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an American Baptist minister and a civil rights leader in the 1950s and 1960s in the United States. He was a great speaker and used the power of speech in combination with civil disobedience based on Christian beliefs in order to help advance the rights of colored people in America. 

Early Life 

Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15th, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. When Martin was a young boy, he made friends with a white boy in his neighborhood. But, when they both reached school age, the parents of the white boy made Martin stop seeing the white boy because of racial differences. Martin also attended an all-colored elementary school. 

During his childhood, Martin learned all about racial inequalities and the struggle of African Americans in the United States. He initially hated white people but his parents convinced him that it was his Christian duty to love everyone regardless of their color. Martin’s childhood was also heavily influenced by his father who was a civil rights leader in his own right. Martin regularly attended civil rights events that were frequently led by his father, Martin Luther King Sr.


Martin Luther King Jr. attended the Booker T. Washington High School. When he was done with high school, he attended Morehouse College, where he obtained a Bachelor of the Arts degree in Sociology in 1948. To pay for college, Martin and some of his college friends traveled north to work in the tobacco fields of Simsbury, Connecticut. Martin was amazed to see how kind white people were to black people in the north and how there was a complete lack of segregation in schools, restaurants, and other places in the northern states. This had a profound impact on him. Martin went on to obtain a B.D. from Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania in 1951, and then a doctoral degree in systematic theology from Boston University in 1955. 

Career and Civil Rights Movement 

After obtaining his doctoral degree, Martin Luther King Jr. became a pastor at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery Alabama. Around this time, he also became a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). During this period, Martin also started to participate heavily in the civil rights movement and started to become a leading figure for the movement. In December of 1955, Martin helped to lead a bus boycott designed to protest the segregation laws for buses in the southern United States. This boycott lasted 382 days and eventually led to the Supreme Court declaring bus segregation laws unconstitutional, a major victory for King Jr. and civil rights. 

During the boycott, Martin was arrested, his home was bombed, and he was subject to a lot of abuse. But, he was brave enough to persevere. He emerged from the boycott as a top leader in the civil rights movement. Over the next 12-13 years, Martin Luther King Jr. would go on to make over 2,500 speeches, traveling all around America, rallying support for the civil rights movement. He helped to lead massive protests in Selma, Birmingham, Washington D.C., and many other places.


“I have a dream speech” 

On August 28th, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. made the most famous speech of his career in Washington D.C. during a protest in which he led over 250,000 people in a March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In this speech, Martin Luther King described a dream he had in which America would become a more free, tolerant, and unified society in which “this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’” In this speech, Martin also described his hope for his four children to be judged “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” 

This speech has gone down as one of the most important speeches ever made and it was a turning point in the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr. became Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 1963 and he won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1963. 


Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4th, 1968, in Memphis Tennessee while he was standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. He was in the city to lead a protest march against the ill-treatment of colored sanitation workers in the city.