Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr., emerged in the national spotlight as the leader and spokesman for the Montgomery bus boycott in December 1955. He was elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association and his dramatic, powerful speeches at key points in the boycott were carried on national television. Born in Atlanta in 1929, King was the son and grandson of ministers. He was graduated from Morehouse College, Crozier Theological Seminary, and Boston University. In his theological and doctoral studies King focused on the non-violent movement for change led by Mahatma Ghandi and on the Christian theological work of Reinhold Neibhur. In 1954 King accepted the call to pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. To continue the black freedom struggle after their success in Montgomery, King and other ministers founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957. In 1963 King helped lead massive protests in Birmingham, Alabama, and in the summer made several trips to Danville, Virginia. King's emphasis on direct action, non-violence, and Christian activism were central to the civil rights struggle.