The Life of Martin Luther King Jr
In January, we celebrate the life and works of Martin Luther King, Jr. on the third Monday of the month. This federal holiday sees many of the city’s residents taking a day off from work as the nation remembers this iconic figure in history. The official designation of the holiday is to mark his birthday, but a federal holiday must fall on a weekday, so it changes each year. There are plenty of twists and turns within his story, which helped changed the face of America.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on the 15th of January, 1929, at a tumultuous time in American history. He was raised in a strict household with his father and mother, but he went through much emotional turmoil during his childhood. He often experienced negativity throughout his life because of his race, and when his grandmother died, he attempted suicide at the age of 12.
He survived and went on to become an excellent public speaker and debater in high school. One landmark moment in his schooling career came on the way home from an awards ceremony. The chosen children were on a bus with their teacher and were asked to stand so that the white passengers could be seated. King resisted, but was eventually coaxed to leave his seat, an experience which stayed with him for the rest of his life.
King continued to excel in his academic studies and met a woman who he intended to propose to. His friends quickly advised against it, as his mother and other friends would have been shocked by the interracial marriage. He broke off the engagement and this was yet another example of the racial inequality that burdened his life.
He was known for his nonviolent protests and his ability to rally the disenfranchised to his cause. The Albany movement was one campaign that he got involved in and he used this opportunity to bring the nation out in scores for the cause. He was then arrested in Birmingham as part of a nonviolent, but invasive campaign against segregation.
The famous March on Washington was his next major civil rights activity in 1963, and this was where he delivered the famous “I Have a Dream” speech. This is regarded as one of the best examples of public speaking in history and was instrumental in the next part of American history. Although segregation had officially ended after this point, there were still injustices to fight on behalf of the black public.
His final speech was delivered on the 3rd of April, 1968, in which King alluded to threats that he had received. He refused to back down in the face of this danger and was assassinated at his motel later that evening.
If you want to learn more about the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. this month, join us and visit his memorial statue on our mid-day DC Memorials Tour. You can visit with us to learn about the historic steps that this man took for Americans everywhere.