Martin Luther King, Jr., original name Michael King, Jr., (born January 15, 1929, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.—died April 4, 1968, Memphis, Tennessee), Baptist minister and social activist who led the civil rights movement in the United States from the mid-1950s until his death by assassination in 1968. His leadership was fundamental to that movement’s success in ending the legal segregation of African Americans in the South and other parts of the United States. King rose to national prominence as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which promoted nonviolent tactics, such as the massive March on Washington (1963), to achieve civil rights. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
Figure 1: King Martin Luther Jr.
Education: King Martin Luther Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. began his education at Yonge Street Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia. Following Yonge School, he was enrolled in David T. Howard Elementary School. He also attended the Atlanta University Laboratory School and Booker T. Washington High School. Because of his high score on the college entrance examinations in his junior year of high school, he advanced to Morehouse College without formal graduation from Booker T. Washington. Having skipped both the ninth and twelfth grades, Dr. King entered Morehouse at the age of fifteen.
In 1948, Martin Luther King, Jr. graduated from Morehouse College with a Bachelors degree in Sociology. That fall, he enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. While attending Crozer, he also studied at the University of Pennsylvania. Martin Luther King, Jr. was elected president of the senior class and delivered the valedictory address; he won the Pearl Plafker Award for the most outstanding student; and he received the J. Lewis Crozer fellowship for graduate study at a university of his choice. Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Crozer in 1951.
In September of 1951, Martin Luther King Jr. began doctoral studies in Systematic Theology at Boston University. He also studied at Harvard University. His dissertation, “A Comparison of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Wieman,” was completed in 1955, and the Ph.D. degree from Boston, a Doctorate of Philosophy in Systematic Theology, was awarded on June 5, 1955.
5 things about Martin Luther King Jr.:
Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) was a Baptist minister and social activist who played a key role in the American civil rights movement from the mid-1950s until his assassination in 1968. Explore 5 surprising facts about the civil rights leader and 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner.
- King’s birth name was Michael, not Martin.
The civil rights leader was born Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929. In 1934, however, his father, a pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, traveled to Germany and became inspired by the Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther. As a result, King Sr. changed his own name as well as that of his 5-year-old son.
- King entered college at the age of 15.
King was such a gifted student that he skipped grades nine and 12 before enrolling in 1944 at Morehouse College, the alma mater of his father and maternal grandfather. Although he was the son, grandson and great-grandson of Baptist ministers, King did not intend to follow the family vocation until Morehouse president Benjamin E. Mays, a noted theologian, convinced him otherwise.
- King received his doctorate in systematic theology.
After earning a divinity degree from Pennsylvania’s Crozer Theological Seminary, King attended graduate school at Boston University, where he received his Ph.D. degree in 1955. The title of his dissertation was “A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman.”
- King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was not his first at the Lincoln Memorial.
Six years before his iconic oration at the March on Washington, Martin Luther King, Jr. was among the civil rights leaders who spoke in the shadow of the Great Emancipator during the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom on May 17, 1957. Before a crowd estimated at between 15,000 and 30,000, King delivered his first national address on the topic of voting rights. His speech, in which he urged America to “give us the ballot,” drew strong reviews and positioned him at the forefront of the civil rights leadership.
- George Washington is the only other American to have had his birthday observed as a national holiday.
In 1983 President Ronald Reagan signed a bill that created a federal holiday to honor King. The holiday, first commemorated in 1986, is celebrated on the third Monday in January, close to the civil rights leader’s January 15 birthday.
Awards: Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. received several hundred awards for his leadership in the Civil Rights Movement. Among them were:
- Selected one of the most outstanding personalities of the year by Time, 1957.
- Listed in Who’s Who in America, 1957.
- The Spingarn Medal from NAACP, 1957.
- The Russwurm Award from the National Newspaper Publishers, 1957.
- The Second Annual Achievement — The Guardian Association of the Police Department of New York, 1958.
- Link Magazine of New Delhi, India, listed Dr. King as one of the sixteen world leaders who had contributed most to the advancement of freedom during 1959.
- Named Man of the Year by Time, 1963.
- Named American of the Decade by Laundry, Dry Cleaning, and Die Workers International Union, 1963.
- The John Dewey Award, from the United Federation of Teachers, 1964.
- The John F. Kennedy Award, from the Catholic Interracial Council of Chicago, 1964.
- The Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. At age 35, Dr. King was the youngest man, the second American, and the third black man awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
- The Marcus Garvey Prize for Human Rights, presented by the Jamaican Government. (Posthumously) 1968.
- The Rosa L. Parks Award, presented by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. (Posthumously) 1968.
- The preceding awards and others, along with numerous citations, are in the Archives of the Martin Luther King, Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia. Publication.
 Historical Sketch: Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., available online at: http://norcalmlkfoundation.org/images/MLK2015-KingBioServicelearningFullerton.pdf
 David L. Lewis and Clayborne Carson, “Martin Luther King, Jr.: American Religious Leader and Civil-Rights Activist”, 12-15-2017, available online at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Martin-Luther-King-Jr
 Christopher Klein, “10 Things You May Not Know About Martin Luther King Jr.”, April 4, 2013, available online at: http://www.history.com/news/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-martin-luther-king-jr