Monday, January 17, 2011

Apple #502: Martin Luther King

Today is Martin Luther King Day.  In honor of the day, I thought I'd present you with some facts about the man that you may not know.

(Photo from The Roosevelts)

  • When he was born, he was named Michael Luther King, Jr, but later changed his name to Martin.
  • He graduated from high school at age 15.
  • His grandfather and his father were both pastors at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Martin Luther served as co-pastor with his father from 1960 until he died.
  • His first significant experience with prejudice happened when he was 6 years old. A friend he had played with up until that time told Martin his parents had said they couldn't play together anymore now that they were going to segregated schools.
  • When Martin was 12, his grandmother died of a heart attack.  He learned of her death while he was at a parade, which he was watching without his parents' permission.  He was so upset about his grandmother's death, he jumped out of a second-story window, in an attempt to commit suicide.
  • Before going to college, he worked for a year on a tobacco farm in Connecticut. He was surprised to see that "Negroes and whites go to the same church," and that the races could mix much more freely than they did in the south.
  • He got his Bachelor's of Arts degree from Morehouse College, where he first studied medicine and law but then switched to ministry studies. He received his Bachelor's of Divinity at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, and finally his doctorate at Boston University. When he had completed all this education, he was 24.
  • It was while he was in Boston that he met and married Coretta Scott. They would have four children together, some of whom were born shortly before or after various arrests of his.

King and Coretta Scott on their wedding day, June 18, 1953
(Photo from itThing)

  • It was in college that King read about Gandhi's principles of non-violent protest.  His ideas influenced King tremendously, and later after he went to India and met with Prime Minister Nehru, he was further convinced that non-violent protest was the best way to bring about social change.
  • The Atlanta bus boycott, which began in December 1955 after Rosa Parks would not give up her seat, marked the beginning of his career as a leader in the civil rights movement. The boycott lasted 382 days.
We have no alternative but to protest. For many years we have shown an amazing patience. We have sometimes given our white brothers the feeling that we liked the way we were being treated. But we come here tonight to be saved from that patience that makes us patient with anything less than freedom and justice. --King, in his first speech on the bus boycott, 1955

In February 1956, MLK was arrested in connection with the bus boycott. This is his mug shot.
(Photo from the open end)

  • Following the boycott, he spoke publicly at numerous venues all across the country. From 1957 to 1968, he traveled over 6 million miles and spoke more than 2500 times.
  • In 1958, while signing his book at a store in Harlem, he was stabbed in the chest by a mentally ill woman. The knife blade went into his chest and stopped just short of piercing his aorta. The New York Times reported that if he had sneezed, he would have died.
Dear Dr. King: I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School. While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I'm a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I'm simply writing to say that I'm so happy that you didn't sneeze. --King, quoting a girl who wrote him a letter following the stabbing, 1958
  • In 1960, during a sit-in at a lunch counter, he was arrested along with 33 other protesters. Although charges against him were dropped, he was said to have violated his probation for driving without a license and was sentenced to Reidsville State Prison Farm. The case became the topic of widespread discussion and controversy. John F. Kennedy, then-candidate for President, called Coretta Scott King to express his concern. The next day, Senator Robert Kennedy called the judge in the case to ask if King's right to bail had been upheld. Later the same day, King was released on $2,000 bail. 

King being arrested at a lunch counter
(Photo from The Roosevelts)

  • In the spring of 1963, he was again campaigning to end segregation at lunch counters, this time in Birmingham, Alabama. In response, police turned fire hoses on the demonstrators and set dogs on them. King was arrested and jailed as were hundreds of students who had also been protesting. He was put in solitary confinement, but it was here that he wrote his famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" in response to some clergy members who did not support his actions.
I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.  --King, Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 1963
  • In August of 1963, an estimated 250,000 participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march ended at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and it was from here that King addressed a crowd of some 200,000 or perhaps 400,00 in what would later become known as his "I Have a Dream" speech.

  • In 1964, at the age of 35, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was the youngest man ever to have received the award.
The ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and moments of convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and moments of controversy. --King, at Nobel Peace Prize Recognition Dinner, 1965
  • In 1965 in the march on Selma in support of voting rights, King and his supporters were met with state troopers armed with night sticks and tear gas. The marchers turned back and a federal court issued an injunction against them marching again. King decided to lead a second march, but when they were again met with state troopers, he asked his followers to kneel with him in prayer and then turned back. Many felt disappointed that King had turned back.  Even so, the Voting Rights Act was passed soon after.

I'm not sure which march this is from, but look at all the people.  
(Photo from The Roosevelts)

  • Protests were continuing around the country, but many of them were taking a more violent approach, such as the Watts riot in Los Angeles and the protests at the Democratic convention in Chicago.
  • In 1968, King admitted,  “I'm frankly tired of marching. I'm tired of going to jail,” he admitted in 1968. “Living every day under the threat of death, I feel discouraged every now and then and feel my work's in vain, but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.”
  • He was on his way to Washington to lead another march, but he detoured to Memphis where the city sanitation workers were on strike. At the Mason Temple Church in Memphis, he gave what came to be known as his I've Been to the Mountaintop speech.
  • It begins with the Almighty asking King in what age would he like to live. King says he wants to go to the top of Mount Olympus and from there, he surveys centuries of human experience. But he does not stop there. He says he wants to come all the way to the present day, in spite of the fact that "the nation is sick, trouble is in the land, confusion all around. . . . But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars."
  • He reviews the state of the civil rights movement, reminds people to stay united, reminds them of obstacles they've overcome in the past, the power that they have to overcome more injustice. He concludes with the following:
And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out (Yeah), or what would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers. Well, I don't know what will happen now; we've got some difficult days ahead. (Amen) But it really doesn't matter to with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. (Yeah) [Applause] And I don't mind. [Applause continues] Like anybody, I would like to live a long life; longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. (Yeah) And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. (Go ahead) And I've looked over (Yes sir), and I've seen the Promised Land. (Go ahead) I may not get there with you. (Go ahead) But I want you to know tonight (Yes), that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. [Applause] (Go ahead, Go ahead) And so I'm happy tonight; I'm not worried about anything; I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. [Applause] --King, I've Been to the Mountaintop, April 3, 1968
  • The next day, April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of the hotel room where he was staying in Memphis, he was shot and killed.  
  • In all, he was arrested more than 20 times, his house was firebombed at least once, and he was personally assaulted at least 4 times. He was named TIME magazine's Man of the Year in 1963, he consulted with two Presidents, and he was awarded five honorary degrees. When he died, he was 39 years old.

His public speaking, his interactions with people, and the changes he helped bring about are what endure.
(Photo from Lola Has Something 2 Say!)

Sources, Biography, Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute, Interview after Release from Georgia State Prison at Reidsville, Chronology, I've Been to the Mountaintop speech
Our Georgia History, Martin Luther King (chronology), Martin Luther King Jr. Biography

1 comment:

  1. i thank him for all he have done with out his braver the south would still be a slave state and i wouln't be a ood slave....... :)


If you're a spammer, there's no point posting a comment. It will automatically get filtered out or deleted. Comments from real people, however, are always very welcome!