Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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  • faith
  • faith
  • faith

Clergyman and Civil Rights Leader

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Dates: 1929–1968
Quote: I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.
Quote credit: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964
Image credit: Allyn Baum / The New York Times / Redux

Inspired by Faith

Synopsis copy: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was America’s greatest social reformer. As a Baptist and civil rights leader he organized faith-based, nonviolent protests against racial segregation, advocating equal rights for all.

Image credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Faith in Action


Body copy: Historically, the church was a cultural center for the African American community in its struggle to overcome slavery and inequality. It was a sanctuary that offered freedom and dignity in a society of racism and oppression.

Image caption: Image depicting a Civil War era African American congregation

Image credit: CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images


Body copy: Southern Jim Crow segregation laws institutionalized inferior, separate facilities like schools, public restrooms, and waiting rooms for people of color. Policies such as poll taxes inhibited equal voting rights. [220]

Image caption: An African American man waits at a segregated bus terminal in Durham, North Carolina in 1940.

Image credit: Library of Congress


Body copy: Churches were refuges and bases of mobilization for congregants in their battle to overcome injustice and oppression. Bible stories, fellowship, and spiritual support sustained the Civil Rights Movement. [207]

Image caption: An African American church community gathers in front of their parish.

Image credit: San Marcos-Hays County Collection, San Marcos Public Library


Body copy: King inspired action through impassioned sermons that relied on texts from the Bible—including the Exodus story—to organize a movement that would legally end segregation and empower African Americans to vote.

Image caption: King stands behind the pulpit, passionately engaged in a sermon.

Image credit: Flip Schulke/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images


Body copy: Some 200 churches were bombed by members of the KKK and other segregationists. The Sept. 15, 1963, bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church, in Birmingham, Alabama, killed four young girls and injured 22 others.

Image caption: Newspapers, like The Journal News in Nyack, NY, covered the 16th Street bombing nationally, garnering support for the Civil Rights Movement.

Image credit: The Journal News © 1963 Gannett-Community Publishing

A Life of Faith

Body copy: King’s life work was guided by a commitment to biblical agape—unconditional love—and nonviolence. His leadership framed the struggle for civil rights through allusion to Scripture, and it inspired meaningful change.


Date: Jan. 15, 1929
Title: Born in Atlanta, Georgia

Description: Although he was born Michael King, Jr., his father renamed him after the famous Protestant Reformation leader, Martin Luther. Father and son later served as co-pastors at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA. The younger King would eventually become America’s greatest social reformer.

Image caption: King’s father, Martin Luther King, Sr., listens to his son as he delivers a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Image credit: Flip Schulke/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images


Date: 1951
Title: Graduates from Crozer Seminary, Chester, PA

Description: After earning an undergraduate degree in sociology from Morehouse College, King followed his father’s path into ministry. He graduated from Crozer Theological Seminary, in Chester, PA, with a divinity degree and went on to earn his Ph.D. in theology from Boston University in 1955.

Image caption: With a preaching style that appealed to hearts and minds, King delivers a sermon supporting the bus boycott in Montgomery, AL, in 1956.

Image credit: Dan Weiner


Date: Dec. 1955–1956

Title: Leads Montgomery Bus Boycott, Montgomery, AL

Description: When Rosa Parks refused to move to segregated seating in the back of a city transit bus, in 1955, she was arrested. King led a 381-day boycott with the Montgomery Improvement Association in protest of the city’s racial segregation. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against segregated public transportation in 1956.

Image caption: King stands in front of a bus, a gesture of challenge to the Jim Crow segregation policy.

Image credit: Don Cravens/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images


Date: Jan. 10, 1957

Title: Founds Southern Christian Leadership Conference

Description: African American Baptist ministers founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) as a non-violent civil rights organization guided by principles of faith. King served as the organization’s first president.

Image caption: Members of the SCLC take part in the March on Washington in 1963.

Image credit: Leonard Freed / Magnum Photos


Date: Aug. 28, 1963

Title: Leads March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Description: In his “I Have A Dream” speech, King alluded to Isaiah’s biblical prophecy, “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low. The rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.”

Image caption: At the March on Washington, King delivered his famous speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to nearly 300,000 demonstrators.

Image credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images


Date: July 2, 1964

Title: Civil Rights Act is Signed into Law

Description: In 1964, largely because of King’s influential activism, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. The legislation bans discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” The Voting Rights Act followed, in 1965, banning discriminatory policies regulating voting.

Image caption: King stands behind President Johnson as he signs the Civil Rights Act into law.

Image credit: Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images


Date: April 3, 1968

Title: Delivers “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” Speech in Memphis, TN

Description: In an eerie foreshadowing, King alluded to Moses’s death: “I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”

Image caption: On the night before he was assassinated, King urged continuing the fight for equality in his final sermon, delivered in Memphis, TN.

Image credit: AP Photo/Charles Kelly

Legacy of Liberty

Question/alignment statement: Do you think that the vision and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. is yet to be fully realized?

Image credit: Ricardo B. Brazziell – USA TODAY


Scripture: After this I looked, and there was an enormous crowd—no one could count all the people! They were from every race, tribe, nation, and language, and they stood in front of the throne …

Scripture credit: Revelation 7:9

Image credit: Flip Schulke/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Related changemakers: Billy Graham, Cesar Chavez, Lincoln

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