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Social Studies
African-American History

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Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in the southern state of Georgia. He began a segregated education at the age of 5 and graduated high school at the age of 15, after skipping both the 9th and 11th grades. Though his parents tried to shield him as a child, he always showed extreme interest in racial equality movements, and his own father was an activist for equal rights. After high school, King attended Moorehouse College, Crozer College, and Boston University, proving to be a standout at each. By the time he began working as a pastor in Alabamba in 1954, King was already an executive member of the NAACP. King played an enormous role in the road toward civil rights, proving on many occasions, to be a force of change in history.

Martin Luther King Jr.

...and the Road to Civil Rights

One of King's earliest accomplishments in the road toward civil rights was the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This movement begun in December of 1955 when a black woman by the name of Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white woman. The MIA (Montgomery Improvement Association) was created in protest of Parks' arrest, and the appointed president of the group was Martin Luther King Jr. Because of his high level of education and superb leadership skills, King was able to organize a peaceful, one-year long boycott of Montgomery, Alabama's buses. In 1956, the boycott came to an end when the supreme court outlawed AL's bus segregation law in Browder vs. Gayle.

Montgomery Bus Boycott

In the late summer of 1963, Martin Luther King arranged for thousands of people from accross the country, both black and white, to march to Washington DC. On August 28, 1963, after all of the marchers had arrived, Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech, addressing the problem of racial inequality, and calling for a future in which civil rights are offered to all. Police, soldiers, and members of the national guard were all employed to ensure the protection of the march participants. After the march, the speakers arranged to meet with President Kennedy and discuss civil rights legislation, and all of them, including Kennedy, considered the event a success in the movement. Less than one year later, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law. The act prohibited segregation in public places like theaters, restaurants, hotels, pools, libraries, and schools and used the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to ensure compliance in that respect.

March On Washington

In the year 1965, King made his main goal to register black voters in the south. In order to register more voters, King organized a March from Selma, Alabama to the capital of Alabama, Montgomery. The march was attempted three times; the first two attempts were met with extreme violence by Alabama state police and citizens. This violence was seen and disdained across the nation. By the time of the third attempt, the march had been endorsed by most of the country, including President Johnson, who made sure that the federalized National Guard would protect the protestors as they marched. The march was successfully completed and did improve voting rights for African Americans.

Selma-Montgomery March

On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed by a sniper while sitting on the balcony in front of his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He was immediately taken to a nearby hospital but was pronounced dead shortly after. The result of King’s death was chaos. Riots occurred throughout the nation in outrage over the murder. The Fair Housing Act, also known as The Civil Rights Act of 1968, which prohibited the discrimination concerning housing acquirement based on race, religion, origin, or gender, was passed quickly after Martin Luther King’s death. It is considered the last great legislation of the civil rights movement.

MLK's Assassination

After the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was created by King and others to coordinate future civil rights oriented events. King was heavily focussed on the non-violent principles of Ghandi, and so the group became famous for nonviolent civil disobediences. One of the greatest outcomes was the "sit-in" movement of 1960, which began when a few black teenagers sat at a segregated lunch counter in North Carolina. At a conference in April, 1960, King encouraged the non-violent protest among students, thus creating the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. The SCLC and SNCC worked together so that by October, King and 75 other students had organized an Atlanta sit-in which resulted in 36 arrests, all of which were pardoned.



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