Drum Major for Peace: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A message from Falecia Williams, President, West Campus

mlk-groveDr. Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American pastor, activist, humanitarian and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is widely regarded as America’s pre-eminent advocate of nonviolence and one of the greatest nonviolent leaders in world history. He used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance, such as protests, grassroots organizing and civil disobedience to achieve seemingly impossible goals. He went on to lead similar campaigns against poverty and international conflict, always maintaining fidelity to his principles that men and women everywhere, regardless of color or creed, are equal members of the human family.

King was the son of Michael King, who changed his name to Martin Luther King Sr. in honor of German reformer Martin Luther.

A Baptist minister, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, serving as its first president. With the SCLC, King led an unsuccessful struggle against segregation in Albany, Georgia, in 1962 and organized nonviolent protests in Birmingham, Alabama, that attracted national attention following television news coverage of the brutal police response. King also helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. There, he established his reputation as one of the greatest orators in American history.

On October 14, 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolence. In the final years of his life, King expanded his focus to include poverty and the Vietnam War, alienating many of his liberal allies with a 1967 speech titled “Beyond Vietnam.” In 1968, King was planning a national occupation of Washington, D.C., to be called the Poor People’s Campaign when he was assassinated on April 4, in Memphis, Tennessee. His death was followed by riots in many U.S. cities.

King was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal posthumously. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a U.S. federal holiday in 1986. He is the only nonpresident to have a national holiday dedicated in his honor and to be memorialized on the Great Mall in Washington, D.C. Just as he was inspired by the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, his teachings remain relevant among advocates for nonviolent change and progress.

You’re invited to pay tribute to Dr. King by participating in one of the following events on Monday, January 20, 2014:

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