An overview of a life well spent of American Baptist pastor and activist (PT 1) Martin Luther
Martin Luther King Jr. – American Baptist pastor and activist – was the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement from 1954, until he was killed in 1968. He was known for proceeding civil rights through non-violence and civil disobedience.
Dr. King led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and in 1957 and became the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). With the Conference, he led an unsuccessful struggle in 1962. The struggle was against segregation in Albany, and he assisted in organizing non-violent protests in Birmingham in 1963.
In 1964, he won the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through non-violent resistance. Then in 1966, King and the SCLC took the movement north to Chicago to work on segregated housing. During his final years, he expanded his focus to include opposition towards poverty and the Vietnam War. In 1967, King alienated many of his liberal allies with a speech he titled “Beyond Vietnam”. He was considered to be a radical and FBI agents investigated him for possible communist ties. They even recorded his extramarital liaisons and reported them to government officials.
On one occasion, King was mailed a threatening anonymous letter. A letter he interpreted as an attempt to make him commit suicide.
King had an ongoing plan in 1968 on a national occupation of Washington. This was to be called the Poor People’s Campaign. Sadly, the campaign never came to fruition before he was assassinated on April 4 in Memphis, Tennessee. His death emanated lots of riots in many U.S. cities. However, the man convicted for killing King – James Earl – was sentenced to 99 years in prison.
King was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and in 1971, Martin Luther King Jr. day was recognized as a holiday in many cities and states. More than one hundred streets in the United States were renamed in his honor. A county in Washington was also rededicated for him. Martin Luther King Jr. commemoratory in the National Mall at Washington was dedicated in 2011.
King lived from 15th of January 1929 to 4th of April 1968.
AN OVERVIEW OF HIS EARLY YEARS
Dr. Martin Luther King was born on the 15th of January 1929 to Reverend Martin Luther King Sr. and Alberta Williams King in Atlanta, Georgia. His given name at birth was Michael King, same as his father. But after a while, the elder King decided to change both his and his son’s names. Their new names were then Martin Luther King Sr. and Martin Luther King Jr. in 1934. His parents were both African-American, and he also had Irish lineage through his paternal great-grandfather. King was the middle child between elder sister Christine King Farris and younger brother A.D. King. He enjoyed singing and he sang with his church choir at the 1939 Atlanta premiere of the movie “Gone with the Wind”.
Truth be told, King was skeptical of many of Christianity’s claims from the beginning. This was to the extent that when he was thirteen years old, he denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus during Sunday school. Howbeit, he later concluded that the Bible holds many profound truths which one cannot escape and decided to enter the seminary. Growing up in Atlanta, King attended Booker T. Washington High School and became known for his public-speaking ability. In no time, he became part of the school’s debate team.
When Martin Luther King was 13 years old, luck decided to shine on him. At that point, he rose to become the assistant manager at one of the stations that delivered newspapers for the Atlanta Journal. As an outstanding student that he was, he skipped both the ninth and the twelfth grades of high school.
In 1947, 18-year-old King chose to enter the ministry. This was after he had concluded that the church offered the most assuring way to answer an inner urge to serve humanity. As his inner urge developed, he made peace with the Baptist Church. There, he believed he would be a rational minister with sermons that would be a respectful force for ideas and social protest.
At the age of 19, King graduated from Morehouse College with a B.A. in Sociology. He then joined the Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, where he graduated with a B.Div. Degree in 1951. Martin Luther King Sr. fully supported his son’s decision to continue his education. Furthermore, he made arrangements for him to work with a family friend who pastored at Calvary Baptist Church in Chester.
MARRIAGE AND FAMILY OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR
On June 18, 1953, King married Coretta Scott, on the lawn of her parents’ house at Heiberger, Alabama. They gave birth to four children: Yolanda King, Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott King, and Bernice King. During their marriage, King restricted his wife’s role in the civil rights movement, expecting her to be a housewife and mother.
LIFE AS A PASTOR
King was pronounced a pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama at the age of 25.
King started doctoral studies in systematic theology at Boston University and received his Ph.D. degree in 1955. His dissertation was titled ‘A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman’. While pursuing his doctorate degree, King worked as an assistant minister at Boston’s historic Twelfth Baptist Church to Rev. William Hunter.
Years later, an academic inquiry in October 1991 concluded that parts his dissertation was plagiarized and he had acted improperly. In spite of this discovery, the committee decided that no thought should be given to the cancellation of King’s doctorate degree.
Between March to December 1955, two events occurred involving two black girls accused of violating a local law in the Southern United States that enforced racial segregation, This event led to the establishment of the Montgomery bus boycott, which was planned by E.D Nixon and led by King. The boycott took place for 385 days and the situation became so edgy that King’s house was bombed in the process. This campaign led to the arrest of King and the U.S District Court ruling ended the racial segregation on all Montgomery public buses.
His role in the bus boycott changed him to a national figure and the best-known spokesman of the civil rights movement.