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Martin Luther King Jr.  (1929-1968)
In honor of Black History Month, all month long we will be sharing the legacies and stories of the heroes, sheroes, and events in the fight for Black suffrage on social media under the hashtag #VRABlackHistory. Follow us on Twitter (@VRAmatters) to share your own facts.

Today we honor Martin Luther King Jr., who "was a Baptist minister and social activist who played a key role in the American civil rights movement from the mid-1950s until his assassination in 1968. Inspired by advocates of nonviolence such as Mahatma Gandhi, King sought equality for African Americans, the economically disadvantaged and victims of injustice through peaceful protest." Arrested for his involvement in the Birmingham campaign of 1963 (in which activists used a boycott, sit-ins and marches to protest segregation, unfair hiring practices and other injustices), on April 12th,  King penned the civil rights manifesto known as the "Letter from Birmingham Jail", an eloquent defense of civil disobedience addressed to a group of white clergymen who had criticized his tactics. King was the driving force behind watershed events such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the March on Washington, and the Selma-to-Montgomery marches which helped bring about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. "King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and is remembered each year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a U.S. federal holiday since 1986.”  
Fun Facts
  • Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 as Michael King Jr. after his father, a powerful preacher in his own right. King was known as 'Little Mike' throughout his childhood, but the name did not last long. Things shifted for King at the age of five, when many historians believe his father changed both of their names. In Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63, author Taylor Branch describes the elder King’s 1934 trip to Europe — which inspired the name change.”

  • “After graduating in 1948, King entered Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, where he earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree, won a prestigious fellowship and was elected president of his predominantly white senior class.”

  • The Montgomery bus boycott lasted 381 days, with Martin Luther King Jr. chosen “as the protests’ leader and official spokesman”.

  • “During a month-long trip to India in 1959, he had the opportunity to meet family members and followers of Gandhi, the man he described in his autobiography as “the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change.”

  • “The final section of Martin Luther King Jr.’s eloquent and iconic “I Have a Dream” speech is believed to have been largely improvised.”
  • In 1996, Congress authorized Martin Luther King, Jr.’s fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, to establish a Memorial to him in Washington, D.C.” “The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is located in West Potomac Park at 1964 Independence Avenue, S.W., referencing the year the Civil Rights Act Of 1964 became law. The memorial’s official dedication date is August 28, 2011, the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” “This memorial is the first African American honored with a memorial on the National Mall and the fourth non-president to be remembered in such a way. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s message is universal: a non-violent philosophy striving for freedom, justice, and equality.”

Recommended Reading:

Click on the video to watch as Coretta Scott King discusses the night of January 27, 1956, when her husband was just 27 years old, and received a threatening phone call that would cause his life to change forever.