The Man With A Dream



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The Man with a Dream

Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in rural Georgia. Growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, Martin Luther King Jr. entered public school at age 5. Martin was 12 years old when is grandmother, Jennie, died of a heart attack. This traumatized Martin because he was out watching a parade against his parents’ wishes when she died. Later Martin jumped from a second story window, from the family home, attempting suicide.

King attended Booker T. Washington High School, where he was a precocious student. He skipped both the ninth and eleventh grades, and entered Morehouse College in Atlanta at age 15, in 1944. In 1948, Martin Luther King Jr. earned a sociology degree from Morehouse College and attended the liberal Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. He thrived in all his studies, and was valedictorian of his class in 1951, and elected student body president. He also earned a fellowship for graduate study.

But Martin also rebelled against his father’s more conservative influence by drinking playing pool while at college. He became involved with a white woman and went through a difficult time before he could break off the affair. During his last year in seminary, Martin Luther King Jr. came under the influence of theologian Reinhold Niebbuhr, a classmate of his father’s at Morehouse College. Niebbuhr became a mentor to Martin, challenging his liberal views of theology. After being accepted at several colleges for his doctoral study including Yale and Edinburgh in Scotland, King enrolled in Boston University.

Martin Luther King Jr. met Correta Scott, an aspiring singer and musician, at the New England Conservatory School in Boston. They were married in June 1953 and had four children, Yolanda, Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott and Bernice. In 1954, while still working on his dissertation, King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church of Montgomery, Alabama. He completed his Ph.D. and was award his degree in 1955. King was only 25 years old.

Martin Luther King Jr. became a civil rights activist working with the NAACP and various civil rights leaders. On the night that Rosa Parks was arrested the NAACP met with Martin Luther King Jr. and other local civil rights leaders to plan a citywide bus boycott. King was elected to lead the boycott because he was young, well-trained with solid family connections and had professional standing. But he was also new to the community and had few enemies, so it was felt he would have strong credibility with the black community.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s fresh and skillful speaking put a new energy into the civil rights struggle in Alabama. The bus boycott led to 382 days of walking to work, harassment, violence and intimidation for the Montgomery’s African-American community. On August 28, 1963, the historic March on Washington D.C. drew more than 200,000 people to the Lincoln Memorial. King made his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, emphasizing his belief that someday all men could be brothers.

From late 1965 through 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. expanded his Civil Rights Movement into other larger American cities, including Chicago and Los Angeles. By 1968, the years of demonstrations and confrontations were beginning to take a toll on Martin Luther King Jr. He had grown tired of marches, going to jail, and living under the constant threat of death. He was starting to lose faith at the slow progress civil rights.

On April 3, in what proved to be an eerily prophetic speech, he told supporters, “I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as people, will get to the promise land.”

The next day, while standing on a balcony outside his room Martin Luther King Jr. was shot by a sniper’s bullet. The shooter James Earl Ray was eventually apprehended after a two-month, international manhunt. The killing sparked riots and demonstrations in more than 100 cities across the country. His existence was one of the biggest factors in the civil rights movement.

Question: Was Martin Luther King Jr. too lenient with his fight for civil rights?