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Martin Luther King, Jr. Poster, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross - PBS
DESIGN: Jed Dore

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Source: Letter from Birmingham Jail (1963)

A pastor, activist, and leader in the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a proponent of non-violence and civil disobedience. The Baptist minister led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott in an effort to desegregate the city’s bus system. Two years later he helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference where he served as its first president. He organized other civil rights protests across the South. In 1963, he helped plan the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom—a political rally that called for civil and economic rights for African Americans. There, he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” Speech. King received the Nobel Peace Prize on October 14, 1964 for his nonviolent efforts in fighting racial injustice in the United States. Considered a radical and a threat, King was part of the FBI’s COINTELPRO program, and was closely watched by the U.S. government. Toward the end of his life, King also addressed issues of poverty and the Vietnam War and speaking out against the war cost him many high-level liberal supporters. On April 4, 1968, King was assassinated in Memphis at the age of 39. In 1986, the third Monday of January was established as a U.S. federal holiday to commemorate King’s birth.

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