Born in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 15, 1929, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. grew up in a time when people of different races were separated in much of the United States. This separation was called “segregation.”
In segregated states, African-Americans were not allowed to use the same drinking fountains as white people. They could go to movies, but they were forced to use a different door and were only allowed to sit in the balcony area. If they wanted to ride a public bus, they had to sit in the back.
Until 1957, even public schools remained segregated. Dr. King attended segregated public elementary and high schools. He graduated from Morehouse College, an all-black college in Atlanta, in 1948.
Dr. King’s father and grandfather were both preachers, and he knew that he wanted to follow in their footsteps. He attended Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, where he received his doctorate in 1955.
After graduating, he began leading a church and married a woman named Coretta Scott. Martin and Coretta moved to the South, where prejudice was very strong in the most segregated states in the United States.
In 1955, police arrested an African-American woman named Rosa Parks when she refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white passenger. Dr. King was outraged by Rosa’s arrest, so he organized a boycott of the public bus system in Montgomery, Alabama. The next year, the U.S. Supreme Court banned segregation on public buses.
For more than 10 years, Dr. King campaigned against segregation, prejudice and racial inequality. Over his lifetime, he gave more than 2,500 speeches, gaining followers and supporters around the country and the world.
He became a leader in the civil rights movement. And in 1964, Dr. King also won the Nobel Peace Prize.
On April 4, 1968, Dr. King was shot and killed by an assassin while standing on the balcony outside his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee.