Today is the official celebration of the birthday of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – an internationally recognized pacifist, civil rights activist and a noteworthy humanitarian. Dr. King’s birthday is a nationally recognized holiday, the very first to honor an African-American, and the very first one to honor a renown man committed to the philosophy of peace. He is also a respected leader in the movement for racial equality.
Dr. King was actually born Michael J. King, Jr. on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. He was the son of Reverend Michael J. King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King. In 1934, after attending the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) conference in Germany, the Reverend King had both his and his son’s name legally changed to “Martin Luther” in honor of the German born founder of the protestant Christian religion.
In 1939, the youthful Martin Luther King, Jr. sang with his father’s church choir at the Atlanta premiere of the Academy Award winning film, “Gone With the Wind.” King always enjoyed music and singing.
At the age of 15, King became a student at Morehouse College, a historically Black institution, where he was awarded an BA degree in sociology in 1948. He then attended the Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, where he received his BDiv degree on June 5, 1951. Reverend King, Jr. received his PhD from Boston University in 1955.
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. became involved in the civil rights struggle for racial equality in the USA shortly after being awarded his doctoral degree in 1955. He was active in the protests and struggles for equal rights throughout the southern states in the USA. He was arrested and jailed several times. He gained notoriety among the African-American communities and he helped to organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and served as the SCLC’s first president from January 10, 1957, until his death in 1968. He was succeeded as SCLC president by his friend and advisor, Ralph Abernathy.
In 1964, King Gustaf VI Adolph of Sweden bestowed upon Reverend Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. the internationally recognized and coveted Nobel Peace Prize in honor of his consistent dedication to nonviolence and peaceful response to harassment and imprisonment in striving for racial equality and harmony. This was the only award or commendation that Dr. King received in his lifetime.
Posthumously, Dr. King, Jr. received two awards from the USA. In 1977, he was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then-President Jimmy Carter. In 2004, he was presented the Congressional Gold Medal.
On 2011, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was dedicated by then-President Barack Obama. The memorial, located on the National Mall, is the only one specifically for a civilian and a pacifist. It is a dignified tribute to the slain activist to racial equality that his memorial was dedicated by the nation’s first African-American president.
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, USA. His murderer was James Earl Ray. Below is an image of the funeral procession following his coffin on the streets of Atlanta, Georgia, on April 9, 1968.
The Reverend Dr. King’s legacy is best summarized in his commitment and his dedication to humanity. His is best known for his civil rights activism, which was desperately needed in order to bring life in the USA true to its ideals. However, his belief in equality, fairness, freedom, respect and tolerance for all people transcends any particular race or ethnicity, religion or gender, or nationality. In this regard, Dr. King, Jr. is indeed a hero for all humankind!
Thank you, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.!