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King, Martin Luther, Jr.  

Timothy B. Tyson

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son and namesake of a prominent Baptist minister, King entered Atlanta's Morehouse College at age fifteen. After graduation he enrolled at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, where he encountered Walter Rauschenbusch's Social Gospel theology, Reinhold Niebuhr's justifications for the use of coercion to combat evil, and Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolent direct action. Enrolling at Boston University, he earned a Ph.D. in systematic theology (1955). He married Coretta Scott in 1953; they had four children.

In 1954, King was appointed pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. On 1 December 1955, the arrest of Rosa Parks for violating the city s racial segregation ordinances sparked a bus boycott and local organizers selected the twenty six year old King to lead it It happened so fast King remembered that I did not even have time to think ...

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King, Martin Luther, Jr.  

Clayborne Carson

King gained national prominence as a black civil rights leader and, during his final years, as a critic of American military involvement in Vietnam. In his memoir, Stride Toward Freedom (1958), King recalled that when initially exposed to pacifism, he concluded that war “could serve as a negative good in the sense of preventing the spread and growth of an evil force.” Only after becoming familiar with Gandhian notions of nonviolent resistance was he convinced that “the love ethic of Jesus” could be “a potent instrument for social and collective transformation.” As the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), King became a nationally known advocate of civil disobedience. He led protest movements in Montgomery (1955–56), Birmingham (1963), and Selma (1965), Alabama, that demonstrated the effectiveness of nonviolent tactics in spurring passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 ...