It’s important to know the man you’re celebrating this Martin Luther King Jr. day! Learn five important facts about the incredible civil rights leader here.
1. He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, making him a household name: in Jim Crow-era south, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. The Montgomery Bus Boycott followed, led by Martin Luther King Jr. (then just 26 years old) and civil rights activist E.D. Nixon, which lasted for an astounding 385 days. The boycott was met with such fury and opposition by White southerners that King’s house was bombed in 1956. He was not home at the time, but wife Coretta Scott King and their daughter were there, along with family friends. It was during the bus boycott that King was arrested for the first time. The boycott eventually ended, and successfully, with the United States District Court ruling in Browder v. Gayle; the ruling ended segregation on ALL Montgomery public buses.
2. He wrote the famous Letter from Birmingham Jail: King was an integral part of the Birmingham campaign in 1963, a series of marches and sit-ins against racism and segregation in Alabama. The nonviolent protests were met with a blanket injunction against “parading, demonstrating, boycotting, trespassing and picketing,” and severe violence, including getting blasted with fire hoses and attacked by police dogs. The injunction was ignored by the leaders of the campaign, including King. Thus, he was arrested (his 13th), along with other leaders.
Angered by what he read about the protests in a newspaper smuggled into the jail by one of his allies, King wrote an open letter deriding the falsehood that their protests were inciting violence, and calls by clergymen that “parading, demonstrating, boycotting, trespassing and picketing” should be done in court, not in the streets. You can read the full letter HERE.
3. He won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize: King became the youngest person to ever receive a Nobel Peace Prize, in 1964 at the age of 35. He announced that he would be giving his prize money, $54,123, to the “furtherance of the civil rights movement.”
4. He led the 1963 March on Washington: King was one of the “Big Six” leaders who organized what was then the biggest protest in Washington, DC, The March on Washington on August 28, 1963. The other five were Roy Wilkins from the NAACP;Whitney Young, National Urban League; A. Philip Randolph, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; John Lewis, SNCC; and James L. Farmer Jr., of the Congress of Racial Equality. The march was initially opposed by President John F. Kennedy, who feared that it would hurt support for the passage of civil rights legislation.
The Big Six changed his mind, and got presidential support to move on with the protest. The protestors had specific demands for the government: a call for the end of racial segregation in public schools; a law prohibiting racial discrimination in employment; protection of civil rights workers from police brutality; a $2 minimum wage, and more.
5. During the March he delivered the famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech: during the March on Washington, King gave a 17-minute speech at the Lincoln Memorial, now known as the “I Have a Dream” speech, because of its most famous passage. It’s considered one of the best speeches in US history. Here’s just a sampling of it:
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
HollywoodLifers, did you learn something new about Martin Luther King Jr. today? Let us know!