Martin Luther King Jr., (Jan. 15, 1929–April 4, 1968) was a pastor, activist, humanitarian, and leader in the African American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs.
He was born Michael King, but his father changed his name in honor of the German reformer Martin Luther. A Baptist minister, King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and after the success of this campaign he decided to make the fight for civil rights is lifetime goal.
Needing an organization to work from he helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, serving as its first president.
With the SCLC, King led an unsuccessful struggle against segregation in Albany, Ga., in 1962, and organized nonviolent protests in Birmingham, Ala, that attracted national attention following television news coverage of the brutal police response. King also helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
On Oct. 14, 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolence. In 1965, he and the SCLC helped to organize the Selma to Montgomery marches and the following year, he took the movement north to Chicago to work on segregated housing. In the final years of his life, King expanded his focus to include poverty and speak against the Vietnam War, alienating many of his allies with a 1967 speech titled “Beyond Vietnam.”