Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in Georgia on January 15th, 1929.
His birth and his legacy are celebrated every year in the United States, on the third Monday of January. It is one of three federal holidays, which commemorate an individual person.
At the tender age of five, Dr. King began his road to academic achievement. He began at the Yonge Street Elementary School in Atlanta, and later enrolled at David T. Howard Elementary School. He also attended the Atlanta University Laboratory School and Booker T. Washington High School.
Not only did he excel amongst his peers, he also achieved outstanding scores on his college entrance exams. In his junior year of high school, he advanced to Morehouse College, skipping both the ninth and twelfth grades. Dr. King entered Morehouse at the age of 15.
In 1948, he graduated from Morehouse and enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. After he completed his Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1951, he began his doctoral studies at Boston University. By 1955 he had his Ph.D. degree. He was just 26-years-old.
In 1953, King married Coretta Scott. They had four children, Yolanda Denise, Martin Luther III, Dexter Scott, and Bernice Albertine.
In 1948, Dr. King was ordained at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. After his ordination, he became the assistant pastor of Ebenezer. However, after completing his doctoral studies at Boston University, he moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where he became pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.
Dr. King became a civil rights activist early on in his career. He was elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, and in 1955, he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He later found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957.
Because of his involvement in various civil rights activities, Dr. King was arrested 30 times.
In 1963, Dr. King led the March on Washington, where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Not only did he raise public consciousness of the civil rights movement, he also established himself as one of the greatest speakers in U.S. History.
Dr. King’s work to erase racial segregation and discrimination peacefully was honored in 1964 when he won the Nobel Peace Prize. He was the youngest person to win the prestigious award.
By the time of his death in 1968, his efforts turned toward ending poverty and opposing the Vietnam War, both from a religious standpoint.
On April 4th, 1968, Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. He was shot at 6:01 p.m., while standing on the Lorraine Motel second floor balcony.
Two months after King's death, escaped convict James Earl Ray was captured in London, while trying to leave the country on a false Canadian passport. Ray was quickly extradited to Tennessee and charged with King's murder. He confessed to the assassination on March 10th, 1969.Three days later however, he recanted his confession. Despite his renounced confession, Ray was sentenced to a 99-year prison term.
After his death, Dr. King was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977. In 2004, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established as a national holiday in the United States in 1986.