Martin Luther King was a genius

Martin Luther King - Biography of a civil rights activist

The civil rights activist Martin Luther King Junior fought peacefully against racial segregation in the USA. His speech "I have a dream" is known worldwide to this day. Fifty years ago, on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was murdered. Read his story here

Profile: Martin Luther King

  • Surname: Martin Luther King Junior
  • Born: on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta
  • Died: on April 4, 1968 in Memphis
  • Nationality: US-american
  • parents: Alberta Christine Williams King (1904-1974) and Michael King sr. (1899-1984)
  • Quote: "True charity is more than the capacity for compassion, it is the capacity for affection. '"

Martin Luther King Junior was a human rights activist and campaigned for the abolition of racial segregation in the United States. Today Martin Luther King is considered a martyr - because of his faith and dreams he accepted death.

How Martin Luther King lived

Martin Luther King Junior was born on January 15, 1929 under the name Michael King Junior in Atlanta, USA. During a trip to Europe, the father later had his son's name changed. He honored Martin Luther, the instigator of the Reformation in the 16th century.

Martin Luther King Junior grew up in a very religious family; his mother was a teacher, the father a pastor in a Protestant community. During his lifetime, racial segregation was still a big issue in the US: Black people were marginalized and barely had any rights. They had to attend separate schools, were not allowed to ride on a bus with whites, eat in the same restaurant, or work in the same workplace.

Like his father, Martin Luther King Junior was strictly against racism. The fact that he was no longer allowed to have contact with his long-time white friend after elementary school moved King Jr. to stand up for the rights of his compatriots. As a child he gave lectures and appeared as an assistant preacher in his father's congregation. In 1948 he completed a degree in sociology (science of human social behavior), followed by postgraduate studies in theology (teaching of God) in 1951.

Then Martin Luther King began to work as a pastor in Montgomery, Alabama. At the same time he married his long-time girlfriend Coretta Scott Williams, with whom he had a total of four children.

How Martin Luther King changed the world

The first protests against racial segregation began in the mid-1950s. In Montgomery, King's home town, blacks refused to give up their seats on the bus in favor of whites. Martin Luther King, then 26 years old, was appointed head of a group that organized the so-called boycott (a kind of political leverage, in this case not using all public transport): The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The protests lasted 381 days - and were successful: the Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in public transport was prohibited from now on.

Because Martin Luther King Junior wanted to dedicate himself even more intensively to civil rights, he quit his job in Montgomery and moved back to Atlanta to live with his father. Now he could afford to travel the American south to give speeches and organize other peaceful protests. King was arrested several times but released following the intervention of then President John F. Kennedy.

Martin Luther King's "I have a dream"

His unbroken courage to stand up for black rights met with great enthusiasm in society. A small group had grown into a large movement: On August 28, 1963, in Washington, D.C. more than 250,000 people, including whites, took part in a peaceful demonstration. The "March on Washington" counts as the climax of the civil rights protests.

At this demonstration, Martin Luther King also gave his most important speech: "I have a dream", which has gone down in history. After this protest march on Washington, J. Edgar Hoover, the then head of the FBI, began intensively to have Martin Luther King and other civil rights activists spied on, in order to ultimately destroy the civil rights movement.

The assassination attempt on Martin Luther King

But his will to strengthen black rights finally found acceptance in the United States. There was a spirit of optimism in the USA. Young President John F. Kennedy met with Martin Luther King and the desegregation law was passed.

Although John F. Kennedy was murdered in November 1963, his successor Lyndon Johnson brought the project to an end. On July 2, 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed. For this, King received the Nobel Peace Prize in the same year and was named "Man of the Year" by the American news magazine Time.

But his success did not please everyone. On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King - presumably by white racists - was shot with a single shot on the balcony of a small motel in Memphis.

When the death of Martin Luther King became known, major uprisings broke out across the United States, killing 40 people. Houses burned, shops were looted. "Burn, Baby, Burn," was the insurgent's slogan, "We have to fight for the murder of Dr. Revenge King ".

And today?

After his death, King was not only awarded numerous prizes, he is considered a martyr by Americans and blacks around the world, i.e. a person who accepts his own death because of his faith. Martin Luther Kings Day is celebrated today on the third Monday in January. For many Americans, this is a statutory memorial and holiday.