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King, Martin Luther Jr.  

John A. Kirk

Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia, 15 January 1929. He attended Morehouse College in Atlanta from 1944 to 1948. Following in the footsteps of his father and his maternal grandfather, King decided to enter the ministry, and he completed his divinity degree at the predominantly white Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania in 1951. King went on to complete his PhD at the also predominantly white Boston University in June 1955. King took up his first post as a Baptist minister at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, while writing his doctoral thesis. In December 1955, King became involved in a boycott of the city’s buses to protest segregation. The thirteen-month boycott ended in December 1956 after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered buses to desegregate.

The Montgomery bus boycott launched King’s civil rights leadership. In 1957 he helped ...

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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 ...