Thursday, November 5, 2009

Human Rights Defenders Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. He was the son of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King. Martin Jr. was originally named ¡¥Michael¡¦, In the early 30s his family travelled to Europe where, amongst other countries, they visited Germany. His father changed both of their names to Martin in honor of the German Protestant leader Martin Luther.

Martin Luther King Jr. became a clergyman, activist and prominent leader in the African-American civil rights movement. His main legacy was to secure progress on civil rights in the United States and he is frequently referenced as a human rights icon today. King is recognized as a martyr by two Christian churches.

A Baptist minister, King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott intended to oppose the city's policy of racial segregation on its public transit system. In 1957 he helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and served as its first president.

His most famous speech, "I Have a Dream" was given during the 1963 March on Washington, where King raised public consciousness of the civil rights movement and established himself as one of the greatest orators in U.S. history.

In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and racial discrimination through civil disobedience and other non-violent means. He also focused his efforts on ending poverty and opposing the Vietnam War, both from a religious perspective.

King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and Congressional Gold Medal in 2004; Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established as a U.S. national holiday in 1986.

(Text by Stewart Sloan)

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