As we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., I marvel at the many achievements, historic events, and dangerous encounters that he had to endure for taking the stand he did in the face of daily oppression. But the trait I admire the most is that, despite the violent encounters that were perpetrated towards him, he never wavered from his position of non-violence to advance his message. I believe that God did reward him for his perseverance against violence. As Jesus said on The Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those that are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:9,10)
So lets take a moment to learn some interesting facts about this dynamic leader, while celebrating just a small sample of Dr. King’s many monumental events and achievements. Please click on the link for more details on each story:
- January 15, 1929, Michael King, later known as Martin Luther King, Jr., is born at 501 Auburn Ave. in Atlanta, Georgia.
- August 6, 1946, The Atlanta Constitution publishes King’s letter to the editor stating that black people “are entitled to the basic rights and opportunities of American citizens.”
- In September of 1948, King begins his studies at Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. By May of 1951, King graduates from Crozer with a bachelor of divinity degree, delivering the valedictory address at commencement, at the ripe age of 18.
- In 1953, he married Coretta Scott at her family’s home near Marion, AL
- In September of 1954, King begins his pastorate at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.
- On June 5, 1955, King is awarded his doctorate in systematic theology from Boston University.
- On November 13, 1956, The U.S. Supreme Court affirms the lower court opinion in Browder v. Gayle declaring Montgomery and Alabama bus segregation laws unconstitutional.
- On December 21, 1956, Montgomery City Lines resumes full service on all routes. King is among the first passengers to ride the buses in an integrated fashion.
- In May 17, 1957, At the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., King delivers his first national address, “Give Us The Ballot,” at the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom.
- On June 23, 1958, King and other civil rights leaders meet with President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington.
- On September 17, 1958, King’s first book Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story is publisher.
- On September 20, 1958, during a book signing at Blumstein’s Department Store in Harlem, New York, King is stabbed by Izola Ware Curry. He is rushed to Harlem Hospital where a team of doctors successfully remove a seven-inch letter opener from his chest.
- On June 23, 1960, King meets privately in New York with Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy.
- On October 19, 1960, King is arrested during a sit-in demonstration at Rich’s department store in Atlanta. He is sentenced to four months hard labor for violating a suspended sentence he received for a 1956 traffic violation. He is released on $2000 bond on 27 October.
- On October 16, 1961, King meets with President John F. Kennedy and urges him to issue a second Emancipation Proclamation to eliminate racial segregation.
- Summer of 1962, King is arrested at an Albany, Georgia prayer vigil and jailed. After spending two weeks in jail, King is released.
- On April 16, 1963, Responding to eight Jewish and Christian clergymen’s advice that African Americans wait patiently for justice, King pens his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” King and Abernathy were arrested on 12 April and released on 19 April.
- On May 7, 1963 Conflict in Birmingham reaches its peak when high-pressure fire hoses force demonstrators from the business district. In addition to hoses, Police Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor employs dogs, clubs, and cattle prods to disperse four thousand demonstrators in downtown Birmingham.
- On August 28, 1963, The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom attracts more than two hundred thousand demonstrators to the Lincoln Memorial. Organized by A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, the march is supported by all major civil rights organizations as well as by many labor and religious groups. King delivers his “I Have a Dream” speech. After the march, King and other civil rights leaders meet with President John F. Kennedy and Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson in the White House.
- On September 18, 1963, King delivers the eulogy at the funerals of Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, and Cynthia Dianne Wesley, three of the four children that were killed during the 15 September bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Carole Robertson, the fourth victim, was buried in a separate ceremony.
- On October 16, 1963, U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy authorizes the FBI to wiretap King’s home phone.
- On January 3, 1964, King is named “Man of the Year” by Time Magazine.
- On March 26, 1964, King meets Malcolm X in Washington, D.C. for the first and only time.
- King’s book Why We Can’t Wait is published in June of 1964
- On June 11, 1964, King is arrested and jailed for demanding service at a white-only restaurant in St. Augustine, Florida.
- After King criticizes the FBI’s failure to protect civil rights workers, in November of 1964, the agency’s director J. Edgar Hoover denounces King as “the most notorious liar in the country.” A week later he states that SCLC is “spearheaded by Communists and moral degenerates.”
- On December 1, 1964, King meets with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover at the Justice Department.
- On December 10, 1964, King receives the Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway. He declares that “every penny” of the $54,000 award will be used in the ongoing civil rights struggle.
- On March 7, 1965, In an event that will become known as “Bloody Sunday,” voting rights marchers are beaten at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama as they attempt to march to Montgomery.
- In 1965, during the week of March 17-25, Dr. King, James Forman, and John Lewis lead civil rights marchers from Selma to Montgomery after a U.S. District judge upholds the right of demonstrators to conduct an orderly march.
- In June of 1967, King’s book Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? is published.
- On April 3, 1968, King returns to Memphis, determined to lead a peaceful march. During an evening rally at Mason Temple in Memphis, King delivers his final speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.”
- On April 4, 1968, King is shot and killed while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.
These are just some the accomplishments and milestones of Dr. King. These have been compiled for your edification so that we understand the facts, become familiar with the details of each historical event, and have a greater appreciation for the groundbreaking work that this great American leader of the 20th century achieved in his lifetime, and will be carried on for generations to come.
Chris Gaines, Editor-In-Chief
Photo Souces: Getty Images, King County