Martin Luther King Jr. Was one of America’s greatest leaders.
He stood up for the Black people and voiced out against the laws that segregated black people. He led many protests and marches demanding to implement laws fair to all people, irrespective of their color.
Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15th, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. His father was a pastor and his mother a teacher. He had two siblings. Young Martin was interested in sports and enjoyed playing baseball, basketball and American football. He also involved in singing at his father’s church.
Like most children, Martin loved to play in his backyard along with his friends. As he got older, few of his friends avoided coming along to play all because he was black and they were white.
Martin got upset over the issue. He couldn’t understand the reason why the color of his skin should make a difference. Then, Martin’s mother explained how black people were sold many years ago as slaves and are still not treated fairly by many people.
In Atlanta, and elsewhere in the USA, there were signs reading ‘White Only’, which meant black people were not allowed in. These Signs were on parks, hotels, restaurants and even schools
There were also restrictions on jobs for Black people.
Martin, as a bright child learned to read even before he started his schooling. He was keen on finding out the black leaders of the past.
Martin studied hard and entered the Morehouse College in Atlanta when he was just fifteen years old.
While he was at college, he decided to become a minister.
After Morehouse College, Martin traveled to Boston for his higher studies. He met Coretta Scott there and they got married. He completed his doctorate and became Dr. Martin Luther King.
After college, Dr. King started his first job as a pastor in Montgomery, Alabama in 1954.
One year later, Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. The ‘White Only’ section of the bus had been full and she was in one of the seats just behind.
Following this issue, Dr. King led a protest. Black people throughout the city refused to ride the buses.
One night a bomb was thrown into Dr. King’s house while he was out.
Many of his followers became angry and wanted to fight. However, Martin wanted everything to get resolved peacefully. He encouraged black people to try to get along with White people.
The bus protest lasted a year. When it ended there were no more ‘White Only’ sections on buses.
In 1960, Dr. King moved back to Atlanta. He continued to lead peaceful protests for equal rights of Black people and to stop the existing social segregation. He was arrested many times, even though he was a peaceful man.
In 1963 Dr. King led his biggest march of all – the March on
Washington. More than two hundred thousand people, of all colors, followed him. It was here that he gave his most famous speech.
“I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
In 1964, Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize – a great honor. It was the time when the USA was seeing a change. New laws were passed and ‘Whites Only’ signs were considered against the law.
In some areas, however, there were still problems. Although Dr. King told his followers to protest
peacefully there were sometimes outbreaks of violence and riots.
Dr. King travelled to Memphis, Tennessee in April 1968. He planned a march for equal pay for white and black refuge workers.
But, on April 4th in Memphis, when Dr. King stood outside his motel room, he was shot by a man called James Earl Ray. He had been hiding nearby waiting for his opportunity to kill him. Dr. King died an hour later.
Dr. King achieved many things within his lifetime.
He had dreamed of a world free of hate, prejudice and violence.
In 1983, the US government declared that the third Monday in January would be made a holiday to honour the life and ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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