About 51 years ago on April 4, 1968, America lost a great influencer, Baptist minister and social activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Born January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Ga., King was the second child to Martin Luther King Sr. and Alberta Williams King. King attended segregated public schools and at the age of 15 was admitted to Morehouse College, the alma mater of both his father and maternal grandfather, where he studied medicine and law.
King then enrolled in a graduate program at Boston University in 1953, earning a doctorate in systematic theology two years later. While in Boston, King met the love of his life Coretta Scott, a young singer from Alabama who studied at the New England Conservatory of Music.
Scott and King got married in 1953 and settled in Montgomery, Ala., where he then had four children and became a pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.
The King family had been living in Montgomery for less than a year when the highly segregated city became the epicenter of struggle for civil rights. He and others of the African-American community faced many challenges from authorities and other citizens in a fight for equal rights. King sought equality and human rights for African-Americans, the economically disadvantaged and all victims of injustice through peaceful protest.
He drew inspiration from his Christian past and Mahatma Gandhi, and the principles of non-violent practices. King believed a message can be received far greater with peace than with violence.
Even with non-violent practices, King and his followers were targeted, hosed, brutally beaten, arrested and more numerous times, but the determination and inspiration of King helped others to keep these principles going, and they continued to protest and fight through all the obstacles.
Thanks to his determination many achievements occurred throughout the years like:
1955: King was recruited to serve as the spokesman for Montgomery Bus Boycott, which was a campaign by the African-American population of Montgomery.
1957: King was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), an organization designed to provide new leadership for the civil rights movement. He was the SCLC leader until his assassination in 1968.
1964: He became the youngest person to win the Nobel Prize at age 35.
1965: Congress went on to pass the Voting Rights Act, which was an equally important set of laws that eliminated the remaining barriers to voting for African-Americans. King had many other self-accomplishments or accomplishments for the African-American community that would be used and held today.
His message, beliefs and work are still an inspiration to this day. His impact on our society granted him a day marked as an official U.S. federal holiday in honor of him.
There are many ways to celebrate and honor King’s legacy beyond MLK Day by talking about and sharing his achievements with others and either listening or reading his famous speech “I Have a Dream.”