Martin Luther King, Jr.


Join Active Minds for a look at the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We will trace Dr. King’s rise to prominence from a Southern Baptist pastor to Nobel Prize winner and leader of the civil rights movement. We will examine how Dr. King’s efforts impacted history and how his ideas continue to influence our society today.

Key Lecture Points

  • Born on January 15, 1929, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would become the symbolic center of the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. He played a central role in some of the most significant efforts to roll back discrimination against black Americans and to achieve racial equality in the country.
  • King’s legacy includes (but is not limited to): the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-56), the formation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) (1957), The Birmingham Anti-Segregation Marches (1963), the March on Washington wherein he gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech (1963), the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the March for Voting Rights in Selma, Alabama (1965) and the subsequent passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
  • The hallmark of King’s tactics of achieving racial justice was the use of nonviolent protest, even in the face of racist violence, to reveal to the nation the injustice that blacks (particularly in the south) were experiencing. In this regard, King was influenced by Mohandas Gandhi who preached non-cooperation and nonviolence to achieve Indian independence from Britain.
  • King also achieved fame and success in the fight for civil rights by virtue of his rhetorical and oratory skill. An ordained Baptist minister, King combined his religiosity with calls for political action. The combination had a galvanizing effect upon the civil rights movement.
  • In 1968, King was assassinated in Memphis, TN where he had been supporting a strike of black garbage workers demanding equal wages and treatment. He was 39 years old. In 1986, the first Martin Luther King Day (a Federal Holiday) was celebrated.

Exploration Questions

  • What were the moments in King's life that guided him in his leadership in the Civil Rights movement?
  • It has been 40 years since King's death. How does King continue to influence American society?

Reflective Question

  • What are the moments in your own life that made you aware of the issue of race in Society?
  • What are your memories of the Civil Rights Movement and the role that King played in it?

More to Explore

  • Martin Luther King Center Click here
  • Stanford University Online Biography of King Click here
  • FBI files on the surveillance of Marin Luther King Click here

Books For Further Reading

  • Carson, Clayborne. Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Warner Books, 2001. 416 pages. Using a vast body of documentary materials, noted scholar Clayborne Carson creates a book that remarkably approximates a self-portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr. Delving into all aspects of this man's life, the work covers his boyhood, his education as a minister, and his emergence as a leader in the Civil Rights movement.
    Click here to order
  • King, Martin Luther, Jr., Washington, James. I Have a Dream - 40th Anniversary Edition: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World. HarperOne, 1992. 256 pages. This fortieth-anniversary edition honors Martin Luther King Jr.'s courageous dream and his immeasurable contribution by presenting his most memorable words in a concise and convenient edition.
    Click here to order