Skip to main content

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Timeline

1929 Born to teacher Alberta King and Baptist minister Michael Luther King
1944 Graduates from high school at age 15 and enters Morehouse College
1948 Receives BA in Sociology at age 19
1951 Receives degree from Crozer Theological Seminary
1953 Marries Coretta Scott, a music student at New England Conservatory; they eventually have four children
1954 Becomes minister of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL
1955 Receives Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Boston University; leads boycott of segregated Montgomery buses and gains national reputation
1956 King's house is bombed; US Supreme Court ruling prompts Montgomery to desegregate buses.
1957 King helps found Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)
1958 Writes about the bus boycott in Stride Toward Freedom
1959 Visits India to study nonviolence and civil disobedience
1960 Joins his father as co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta
1963 Arrested and jailed during anti-segregation protests in Birmingham; writes Letter from Birmingham City Jail arguing that individuals have the moral duty to obey unjust laws. Delivers "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington
1964 Publishes Why We Can't Wait; Congress passes Civil Rights Act of 1964 which outlaws segregation in public accommodations and discrimination in education and employment. Receives Nobel Peace Prize.
1965 King and SCLC join voting-rights march from Selma to Montgomery; police beat and tear gas marchers; King addresses rally before state capitol, builds support for voting rights. Congress passes Voting Rights Act of 1965 which suspends literacy tests and other restrictions to prevent blacks from voting
Mid 1960s King's growing opposition to the Vietnam War angers President Johnson and prompts many white activists to switch to anti-war activities
1966 Growing popularity of the black power movement, blacks stressing self-reliance and self defense, indicates King's influence was declining, especially among young blacks. King turns towards economic issues; SCLC moves civil rights struggle to the North; opens Chicago office to organize protests against housing and employment discrimination
1967 King plans Poor People's Campaign; advocates redistribution of wealth to eradicate black poverty; publishes Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community
1968 King is assassinated in Memphis during a visit to supports striking black garbage collectors; violent riots erupt in more than 100 US cities.