“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The quote above was written as part of the “Letter From Birmingham Jail” that Dr. King wrote from inside his cell, after being arrested during a protest in April, 1963.
Martin Luther King, Jr., (January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968) was born Michael Luther King, Jr., but later had his name changed to Martin. As a young man, he attended segregated public schools in Georgia, graduating from high school at the age of fifteen; he received the B. A. degree in 1948 from Morehouse College, a distinguished institution of Atlanta from which both his father and grandfather had graduated. After three years of theological study at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania (where he was elected president of a predominantly white senior class), he was awarded the B.D. in 1951. With a fellowship won at Crozer, he enrolled in graduate studies at Boston University, completing his residence for the doctorate in 1953 and receiving the degree in 1955. In Boston he met and married Coretta Scott, a young woman of uncommon intellectual and artistic attainments. They had two sons and two daughters together.
Always a strong worker for civil rights for members of his race, King was named a member of the executive committee of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), the leading organization of its kind in the nation. Early in December, 1955, he led the first great nonviolent demonstration of contemporary times in the United States: the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. The boycott lasted 382 days. Finally, on December 21, 1956, after the Supreme Court of the United States had declared unconstitutional the laws requiring segregation on buses, Negroes and whites rode the buses as equals. During these days of boycott, King was arrested, his home was bombed, he was subjected to personal abuse, but at the same time he emerged as a strong leader of the African-American community.
In 1957 he was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization formed to provide new leadership for the now burgeoning civil rights movement. King was said to be inspired by the ideals of Christianity and the non-violent protest tactics of Mahatma Gandhi. In the eleven-year period between 1957 and 1968, King spoke thousands of times, wrote five books, and numerous articles. In these years, he led a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama, that caught the attention of the entire world, providing what he called a “coalition of conscience.” He planned the drives in Alabama for the registration of Negroes as voters; he directed the peaceful march on Washington, D.C., of 250,000 people to whom he delivered his now famous “l Have a Dream” speech, he conferred with President John F. Kennedy and campaigned for President Lyndon B. Johnson; he was arrested upwards of twenty times and assaulted at least four times; he was awarded five honorary degrees; was named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1963; and became not only the symbolic leader of black citizens in America, but also a world figure.
At the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.
On the evening of April 4, 1968, he was assassinated while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was supposed to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers of that city.
To read the complete text of his “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” or to view the “I Have A Dream” address, click the links included. For more information on the contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we encourage you to explore the digital archives that are available via the website of the Martin Luther King Center, established by his widow, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, in 1968.
The J. Ardis Bell Library – located in the center of TCC’s Northeast Campus – also has a number of biographical materials on Dr. King’s life and work, as well as an extensive selection of books on the entire Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. Please visit the Library and ask any staff member for assistance in locating these items.
*Majority of the biographical text above was lifted from excerpts of Dr. King’s page at NobelPrize.Org. The biography was written at the time of Dr. King’s award (1964) and was first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. See their site for more details.*
In Business & Social Sciences, History, NE Library