There is probably not a more iconic figure as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On Monday, January 15, 2024, his birthday and legacy is celebrated. His life and experiences consisted of way too much to capture in one blog, but let’s take a walk down the pathway of his life.
A King is Born
On January 15, 1929, Michael King Jr. was the 2nd of 3rd children born to his parents, Michael King Sr. and Mother, Alberta (Williams) King. His older sister was Willie Christine, and younger brother, Alfred Daniel. They were raised in a strict and loving environment, where the elder King became the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1931.
Top row: Alberta King, Michael King Sr., Alberta King’s mother (Jennie WIlliams); Bottom row: Alfred, Christine, and Michael Jr
From Michael to Martin
Michael Sr. was a member of a worldwide delegation of Baptist ministers touring Jerusalem and Palestine. King Sr. visited many of the historical sites in which a German reformer by the name of Martin Luther took his stand against abuses of the Roman Catholic Church and Nazism. As such, upon his return in 1934, he began to identify with a name that would classify him as a reformer for both he and his 5-year old son, Michael Jr.: Martin Luther King (or he went by ML King at times).
Martin grew up reading and learning bible verses and the dictionary. As such, he was well-versed and spoken, and very knowledgeable, even at a young age. He also had to witness and endure unfair treatment, humiliation and racism.
Martin was an eloquent speaker, and was known for his public-speaking ability. He became part of the debate team in high school. During his junior year, in 1944, at age 15, he enrolled into Morehouse college. At age nineteen, he graduated from Morehouse with a Bachelor of Arts in sociology in 1948.
Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Martin found that the church offered the most assuring way to answer “an inner urge to serve humanity”. He was ordained as a minister on February 25, 1948. He went on to earn his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania in 1951.
On June 2, 1952, he became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha’s Sigma Chapter while he was a doctoral student at Boston University. When he moved to Montgomery, Alabama, he joined the Alpha Upsilon Chapter, where his fraternity was a cherished part of his life.
Martin Luther King Jr., far right, bottom row – with members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
At the age of 26, he received his PhD in Systematic Theology in June, 1955 .
Love and Family
In January, 1952, a blind date was setup by a mutual friend, Mary Powell. The two lovebirds ‘courted’, and on June 18, 1953, 16 months after they met, Coretta and Martin were married by King, Sr. on the lawn of Coretta’s parents’ home in Marion, Alabama.
They had four children: Yolanda, Martin III, Dexter, and Berniece.
Coretta was a staunch supporter of her husband and stood by his side through all they had to endure while on the quest for racial equality.
A Leader Fights for Equality and Justice
Dr. King’s civil rights legacy largely started after two bus-related events:
-In March, 1955, 15 year-old Claudette Colvin was arrested after refusing to give up her seat to a white man, which was against the law at the time.
-9 months later, Dec 1, 1955, after a long day of work, 42 year-old Rosa Parks was also arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white person.
These two events resulted in the organization of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which was led by King and lasted 385 days.
During this time, King’s home was bombed, he was arrested and jailed, and harassed. His role in the bus boycott transformed him into a national figure and the best-known spokesman of the civil rights movement.
Throughout later years, King was a leader that focused on the non-violent resistance and non-violent civil disobedience, including:
-Was one of the organizers of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, which he led until his death.
– Led organized, non-violent protests against the system of southern segregation known as Jim Crow laws, for desegregation, labor rights, and other basic civil rights, most of which were successfully enacted into law – the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
– Recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964.
– Served as co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church alongside his father, from 1959 until his death.
– Organized sit-ins and protests
– March on Washington for jobs and equality in 1963, where he delivered the infamous I Have a Dream speech.
– March on Selma, 1965
– Poor People’s Campaign, 1968
The Loss of A King
On March 29, 1968, King went to Memphis, TN, in support of the black sanitation workers. As he stood on the 2nd floor balcony at the Lorraine Hotel, he was fatally shot at 6:01 pm on Thursday, April 4, 1968, by James Earl Ray.
Shock, sadness, and overwhelming grief fell across the world, even to this day.
MLK day was made a federal holiday and is observed on the 3rd Monday of every January. The first federal observance of the holiday was in 1986. The day is filled with tributes, special programs honoring Dr. King, and is deemed a day of service.
Dr. King’s legacy lives on as many continue to strive for racial equality and an end to racism, which seems to have reared its ugly head in recent years. Fellowship Fleet Limousine and Bus Company celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream, life, and legacy. Click HERE to make a reservation to your favorite MLK Day event, or for any other event.