Martin Luther King Day:
A time to reflect — and look to the future at Texas State
King’s voice was a major influence in the civil rights movement throughout the 1960s, leading to acts of legislation signed into law by Texas State alumnus President Lyndon B. Johnson including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Through King’s leadership, millions of people were able to find a voice against discrimination in the United States and gain inspiration from his legacy.
Today, the United States commemorates Martin Luther King Day with celebrations in all 50 states. Don’t miss the MLK Celebration at Texas State on Tuesday, Jan. 17.
Learn more about the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and Martin Luther King Day below.
- On Jan. 15, 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, Ga.
- At 19 years old, King received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Morehouse College, going on to receive a Bachelor of Divinity from Crozer Theological Seminary in 1951 and a doctorate in systematic theology from Boston University in 1955.
- In 1953, King married Coretta Scott, a music student at New England Conservatory, and became the minister of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., in 1954.
- In March 1955, King became a national public figure when he took part in a boycott of segregated buses known as the “Montgomery Bus Boycott” in Montgomery, Ala. The historic boycott lasted for 385 days, during which time Rosa Parks — who became a symbol of the civil rights movement — was arrested for refusing to give up her seat.
- In 1958, King wrote Stride Towards Freedom about his involvement with the Montgomery bus boycotts, and in 1959 King visited the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi in India to study civil disobedience and nonviolence.
- In 1963, King took part in anti-segregation rallies in Birmingham, Ala., where he was arrested and jailed. This prompted him to write Letter from a Birmingham Jail asserting the right of individuals to disobey unjust laws.
- On Aug. 23, 1963, King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech before 200,000 protesters during the March on Washington:
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.”
- On Dec. 10, 1964, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent leadership of such an influential movement in the United States.
- On April 4, 1968, the world was stunned when King was assassinated by escaped convict James Earl Ray. The loss of such an influential leader prompted more than 100 protests in the United States.
- After King’s death, the King Center as well as the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site — including his birthplace and Ebenezer Church — were established in his honor in Atlanta, Ga.
- In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed Martin Luther King Day into law. In 1986, 18 years after King’s assassination, the first federal Martin Luther King Day was celebrated in the United States.
- On Oct. 15, 2011, President Barack Obama dedicated the MLK Memorial in Washington D.C., stating: “I know we will overcome. I know there are better days ahead. Let us keep striving, let us keep struggling, let us keep climbing to that promised land of a nation and a world that is more fair and more just.”