I am convinced that many of us go through life without ever really considering how we’ve benefited from the activism and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Although it’s difficult to truly know all the bi-products of Dr. King’s work, nothing precludes us from heightening out awareness through some good old-fashioned due-diligence.

To make life a little simpler for my readers I have constructed a timeline of key milestones in the life of Dr. King.

1929 – Born at noon on January 15, 1929 to the Reverend and Mrs. Martin Luther King, Sr. at 501 Auburn Avenue, N.E., Atlanta, Georgia.

1944 – Graduated from Booker T. Washington High School and was admitted to Morehouse College at age 15.

1948 – Graduates from Morehouse College and enters Crozer Theological Seminary. Ordained to the Baptist ministry, February 25, 1948, at age 19.

1953 – Marries Coretta Scott and settles in Montgomery, Alabama.

1955 – Received Doctorate of Philosophy in Systematic Theology from Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts on June 5. Joins the bus boycott after Rosa Parks was arrested on December 1. On December 5, he is elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, making him the official spokesman for the boycott.

1956 – On November 13, the Supreme Court rules that bus segregation is illegal, ensuring victory for the boycott.

1957 – King forms the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to fight segregation and achieve civil rights. On May 17, Dr. King speaks to a crowd of 15,000 in Washington, D.C.

1958 – The U.S. Congress passed the first Civil Rights Act since reconstruction. King’s first book, Stride Toward Freedom, is published.  On a speaking tour, Martin Luther King, Jr. is nearly killed when stabbed by an assailant in Harlem.  Met with President Dwight D. Eisenhower, along with Roy Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph, and Lester Grange on problems affecting black Americans.

1959 – Visited India to study Mohandas Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence.  Resigns from pastoring the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church to concentrate on civil rights full time. He moved to Atlanta to direct the activities of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

1960 – Becomes co-pastor with his father at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.  Lunch counter sit-ins began in Greensboro, North Carolina. In Atlanta, King is arrested during a sit-in waiting to be served at a restaurant. He is sentenced to four months in jail, but after intervention by John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, he is released.  Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee founded to coordinate protests at Shaw University, Raleigh, North Carolina.

1963 – On Good Friday, April 12, King is arrested with Ralph Abernathy by Police Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor for demonstrating without a permit.  On April 13, the Birmingham campaign is launched. This would prove to be the turning point in the war to end segregation in the South. During the eleven days he spent in jail, MLK writes his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail.  On May 10, the Birmingham agreement is announced. The stores, restaurants, and schools will be desegregated, hiring of blacks implemented, and charges dropped.  On June 23, MLK leads 125,000 people on a Freedom Walk in Detroit. The March on Washington held August 28 is the largest civil rights demonstration in history with nearly 250,000 people in attendance.  At the march, King makes his famous I Have a Dream speech.  On November 22, President Kennedy is assassinated.

1964 – On January 3, King appears on the cover of Time magazine as its Man of the Year.  King attends the signing ceremony of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at the White House on July 2.  During the summer, King experiences his first hurtful rejection by black people when he is stoned by Black Muslims in Harlem.  King is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10. Dr. King is the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for Peace at age 35.

1965 – On February 2, King is arrested in Selma, Alabama during a voting rights demonstration.  After President Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act into law, Martin Luther King, Jr. turns to socioeconomic problems.

1966 – On January 22, King moves into a Chicago slum tenement to attract attention to the living conditions of the poor.  In June, King and others begin the March Against Fear through the South.  On July 10, King initiates a campaign to end discrimination in housing, employment, and schools in Chicago.

1967 – The Supreme Court upholds a conviction of MLK by a Birmingham court for demonstrating without a permit. King spends four days in Birmingham jail.  On November 27, King announces the inception of the Poor People’s Campaign focusing on jobs and freedom for the poor of all races.

1968 – Dr. King marches in support of sanitation workers on strike in Memphis, Tennessee.  On March 28, King lead a march that turns violent. This was the first time one of his events had turned violent.  Delivered I’ve Been to the Mountaintop speech.   At sunset on April 4, Martin Luther King, Jr. is fatally shot while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. There are riots and disturbances in 130 American cities. There were twenty thousand arrests.  King’s funeral on April 9 is an international event.  Within a week of the assassination, the Open Housing Act is passed by Congress.

Because Dr. King had the courage to dream, we don’ have to experience nightmares.  Do something to ensure the sacrifice of his life was not for naught.  Thank you Dr. King, we are at last free!

Until next time,


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