Preserving American Freedom

The Evolution of American Liberties in Fifty Documents

Martin Luther King Jr.

not before 1954

Pastor, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church
Martin Luther King Jr., a staunch civil rights advocate and movement leader, had humble beginnings as the son of a pastor in Atlanta, Georgia. He attended segregated grade schools until he completed high school at the age of 15. After furthering his education at A. A. Morehouse College in 1948, King matriculated through Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. After becoming co-pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1954, King led a 1956 boycott of the public bus system for 382 days, eventually resulting in the desegregation of the system. King was arrested in Birmingham, Alabama, on April 12, 1963, for protesting without a permit; while incarcerated, he wrote his famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail" on April 6, 1963, wherein he described his rationale for peaceful protest. After his release, King helped to organize the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, and at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, he gave his eloquent "I Have a Dream" speech. The next year, Martin Luther King Jr. won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in civil rights. Five years later, King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on the balcony of his motel room. In the days following his death, his close friend and supporter Jesse Jackson famously pronounced: "the white man's best friend is dead."