Who was Dr. Martin Luther King?

Written and Illustrated by R. Hood

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929. He was a Baptist minister and a leader in the American Civil Rights Movement. He started a civil rights organization called the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. During this ugly time period in the United States of America segregation of African-Americans and Whites was the law. Whites had separate schools and special treatment in stores, hospitals, public transportation and other areas of everyday life. This was called “separate but equal” by the law but it was far from equal.

In 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, an African-American woman named Rosa Parks was arrested for not given up her seat on a public city bus to a White male passenger. She was charged with civil disobedience for violating Alabama segregation laws. The outraged African-American citizens led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. began the historic “Montgomery Bus Boycott”. This is when African-Americans did not take the buses but instead hitched rides, walked, rode bikes or drove as a way to protest the unfair treatment that they received. Over a period of time this hurt the city’s ability to earn money so eventually the law was changed to remove the restrictions on African-Americans to have equal rights on public transportation.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. organized a nationwide March on Washington in 1963 to address the unequal treatment of non-White citizens that was supported by unfair laws. This exposed the unfair racial practices of the laws of the United States to the world. People of all cultures and races participated in this historic event. Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at this civil rights protest.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  led many nonviolent protests against segregation and inequality. These events gained national television news attention because of the savage and violent police response to the protesters.

  Martin Luther King, Jr. was labeled a radical by everyone that wanted things to remain the same. He received many death threats against himself and his family. He was investigated and spied on by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's COINTELPRO division until his death. On October 14, 1964, Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize for fighting against racial inequality using nonviolent methods.

In the final years of his life, Dr. King broadened his fight for equality to include the Vietnam War and poverty in America. Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. Riots in many U.S. cities occurred after Dr. King’s death. A man named James Earl Ray was convicted of killing Dr. King. Dr. King was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal after his death. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day became a U.S. federal holiday in 1986. It is celebrated once a year on the third Monday of January.