Martin Luther King Jr. Fast Facts

Updated 3:16 PM EST, Mon December 28, 2020

Here’s a look at the life of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Personal

Birth date: January 15, 1929

Death date: April 4, 1968

Birth place: Atlanta, Georgia

Birth name: Michael King Jr.

Father: Martin Luther King Sr., Baptist minister

Mother: Alberta (Williams) King

Marriage: Coretta Scott King (June 18, 1953 - April 4, 1968, his death)

Children: Bernice, March 28, 1963; Dexter, January 30, 1961; Martin III, October 23, 1957; Yolanda, November 17, 1955

Education: Morehouse College, B.A., 1948; Crozer Theological Seminary, B.D., 1951; Boston University, Ph.D., 1955

Other Facts

King’s father changed both of their names from Michael to Martin Luther in honor of the protestant reformer.

Youngest person, at the time, to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Author of five books, published 1958-1968.

Timeline

1948 - Is ordained a Baptist minister

1954 - Becomes the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.

December 1, 1955 - Seamstress and civil rights activist Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on a bus to a white man, sparking the year-long Montgomery bus boycott. Within days, the Montgomery Improvement Association is founded to coordinate the boycott. King is elected president of the organization.

January 30, 1956 - King’s house is bombed. His wife and daughter, home at the time, are uninjured.

1957 - The Southern Christian Leadership Conference is established, with King serving as president.

1960 - King moves to Atlanta and becomes co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church with his father.

April 1963 - King is arrested for leading a march in Birmingham, Alabama. While in solitary confinement he writes an essay entitled “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

August 28, 1963 - During the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, King delivers his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The demonstration is attended by more than 250,000 people.

1963 - King is named Time magazine’s Man of the Year.

July 2, 1964 - King stands behind President Lyndon B. Johnson as Johnson signs into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

1964 - Is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

1965 - Helps organize civil rights protests in Selma, Alabama.

August 6, 1965 - Johnson signs into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

April 4, 1967 - King delivers a speech against the war in Vietnam.

April 4, 1968 - King is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, by James Earl Ray.

1976 - The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Activities releases a report stating that from 1963-1968 King was the subject of extensive FBI surveillance.

1977 - Is posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Jimmy Carter.

1980 - The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park is established.

1983 - President Ronald Reagan signs a law making King’s birthday a federal holiday, to be observed annually on the third Monday in January.

1991 - The National Civil Rights Museum opens at the site of the Lorraine Motel, where King was assassinated.

April 23, 1998 - King’s assassin dies in prison.

June 2000 - Following an 18-month investigation, the Justice Department concludes that there is no evidence to support a conspiracy behind King’s murder.

January 30, 2006 - King’s wife, Coretta, dies at the age of 78.

June 2006 - A group of Atlanta business and civic leaders pay $32 million for a collection of King’s personal papers. The papers go to Morehouse College.

November 13, 2006 - The groundbreaking ceremony for the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington takes place. It will be the first memorial on the National Mall dedicated to an African-American.

October 16, 2011 - The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial is dedicated. It is located between the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial.