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Martin Luther King Information Center

Speech excerpts and biography of Dr. King are below. 

Dr. Martin Luther King Quicklinks:

Excerpts of Dr. King's Speeches

March on Washington, 1963

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. 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, sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day, even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of 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. I have a dream that one day down in Alabama with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with the little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today.” 

“This hope is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the south with. And with this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.” 

“...And so let freedom ring, from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that. Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and mole hill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring. And when we allow freedom to ring – when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.”

 

Acceptance Speech, The Nobel Peace Prize, 1964 

“I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept the idea that the ‘isness’ of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal ‘oughtness’ that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life unable to influence the unfolding of events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.” 

“I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of a thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final world in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger that evil triumphant.”

 

I’ve Been To the Mountaintop, 03 April, 1968

Click here for free sound clip 

“...That’s the question before you tonight. Not, ‘If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to my job?’ ‘Not, if I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office everyday and every week as a pastor?’ The question is not, ‘If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?’ The question is, ‘If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?’ That’s the question.”

 

“Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation. And I want to thank God once more for allowing me to be here with you.” 

“...And they were telling me, now it doesn’t matter now. It really doesn’t matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us, the pilot said over the public address system. ‘We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong on the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we’ve had the plane protected and guarded all night.” 

“And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. 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. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop and I don’t mind. 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, and He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight, that we as a people will get to the Promised Land. And 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.”

You have to hear this last paragraph live. It's awesome. Order the tape and hear the whole thing.

 

 

Biography and information on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spearheaded a movement to resolve injustice and the abrogation of law and order in the United States.

He believed all people had value and all people deserve dignity. He prevented violent civil uprising by leading his people to the promised land through love and non-violent resistance. He taught them how to use their collective economic power, as they did in the Sealtest confrontation in Cleveland.

His experience is a part of the American experience. His thoughts have shaped thoughts and policy long after his death. People of all races, colors, and creeds owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude.

 

His origins

Martin Luther King, Jr. was the first son and second child born to the Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King. He entered this world at noon on Tuesday, January 15, 1929. His birthplace was the family home at 501 Auburn Avenue, N.E. in Atlanta, GA. Dr. Charles Johnson was the attending physician.

His siblings were Christine (now Mrs. Isaac Farris, Sr.) and the Reverend Alfred Daniel Williams King. The Reverend A.D. King is now deceased.

Yes, Dr. King's brother was also a preacher! They came from a family of religious leaders. Their maternal grandparents were the Reverend Adam Daniel Williams (second pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church) and Jenny Parks Williams. Their father's parents were were James Albert and Delia King. The elder Kings were sharecroppers on a farm in Stockbridge, GA.

 

The King Marriage

Martin married Coretta Scott, the younger daughter of Obadiah and Bernice McMurry Scott of Marion, AL, on 81 June, 1953. The Rev. King, Sr. performed the service on the lawn of the Scott’s home in Marion, AL. Mrs. Edythe Bagley (Coretta Scott King's sister) was the Maid of Honor. Martin's brother was his Best Man.

  • Yolanda Denise: 17 November 1955 in Montgomery, AL
  • Martin Luther III :23 October 1957 in Montgomery, AL
  • Dexter Scott: 30 January  1961 in Atlanta, GA
  • Bernice Albertine (28 March 1963 in Atlanta, GA

 

Education

Martin began school at the Yonge Street Elementary School in Atlanta before reaching the  legal age of six. When the authorities discovered this, they expelled him! He got back into school at at six. After Yonge, he enrolled in the David T. Howard Elementary School. He attended the Atlanta University Laboratory School and Booker T. Washington High School.

He was a remarkable student, and earned good grades. He did so well, he was allowed to skip the 9th grade, going directly from 8th to 10th.

His high scores on the college entrance examinations in his junior year of high school allowed him to skip 12th grade. He went from the 11th grade directly into college. He was only 15 years old when he entered Morehouse College. He graduated from there in 1948 with a B.A. in Sociology.

He enrolled in the Crozer Theological Seminary (Chester, PA) the fall of the same year he earned his B.A. While at Crozer, he also studied at the University of Pennsylvania!

His signs of leadership appeared early. His fellow students elected him as President of the Senior Class. He even delivered the valedictory address. But, it didn't stop there. Martin won the Peral Plafkner Award as the most outstanding student. He received his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Crozer in 1951. He also received the J. Lewis Crozer Fellowship for graduate study at a university of his choice.

Martin began doctoral studies in Systematic Theology at Boston University that very fall. As with his earlier educational journey, he didn't confine his education to a single school: he also studied at Harvard University.

In 1955, he completed his dissertation, “A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman.” On 05 June 1955, Martin Luther King, Jr. became Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In addition to his degrees from these fine institutions, he earned many honorary degrees from around the world. Here is a partial listing:

  • Doctor of Civil Law, University of New Castle, Upon Tyne
  • Doctor of Civil Laws, Bard College
  • Doctor of Divinity, Boston University
  • Doctor of Divinity, Chicago Theological Seminary
  • Doctor of Divinity, Springfield College
  • Doctor of Divinity, St. Peter’s College
  • Doctor of Divinity, Wesleyan College
  • Doctor of Humane Letters, Morehouse College
  • Doctor of Humane Letters, Oberlin College
  • Doctor of Humanities, Central State University
  • Doctor of Laws, Grinnell College
  • Doctor of Laws, Hofstra University
  • Doctor of Laws, Howard University
  • Doctor of Laws, Jewish Theological Seminary
  • Doctor of Laws, Lincoln University
  • Doctor of Laws, Morgan State University
  • Doctor of Laws, University of Bridgeport
  • Doctor of Laws, Yale University
  • Doctor of Letters, Keuka College
  • Doctor of Social Science, Amsterdam Free University

 

Now that we've covered his early years and his education, let's look at the next phase of his life....

 

A synopsis of his labor for humanity

We saw earlier how Dr. King completed so many educational milestones so early in his life. That pattern held true in his career, also. At the age of 19, he was ordained in February 1948 as a minister, in the  Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA. This ordination allowed him to take a position as Assistant Pastor of that church.

His younger son is named Dexter. Perhaps that is a reflection of his next position, which he took after completing his studies at Boston University. He moved his family to Montgomery, AL, where he became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. He held that position from September 1954 to November 1959.

He left there for Atlanta, to direct the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. From 1960 until his death in 1968, he was co-pastor with his father at Ebenezer Baptist Church. He had other leadership roles....

 

Leadership roles

  • Vice President of the National Sunday School and Baptist Teaching Union Congress of the National Baptist Convention.
  • President of the Montgomery Improvement Association, the organization responsible for the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott from 1955 to 1956 (381 days).
  • Founder and president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from 1957 to 1968.
  • Board of director member of several national and local organizations
  • Trustee board member of many institutions and agencies.
  • Elected members of several learned societies, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
  • Arrested thirty times for participation in civil rights activities.

 

Recognition

A list of all of Dr. King's awards, citations, and honors would make for an exhausting read. You can find the complete collection in the archives of The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc. in Atlanta, GA. Here is a representative sample:

  • Listed in Who’s Who in America, 1957.
  • The Second Annual Achievement Award from The Guardian Association of the Police Department of New York, 1958.
  • Selected as one of the sixteen world leaders who had contributed most to the advancement of freedom during 1959 by Ling Magazine of New Delhi, India.
  • Named “Man of the Year, “ by Time Magazine, 1963.
  • The John F. Kennedy Award, from the Catholic Interracial Council of Chicago, 1964.
  • The Nobel Peace Prize, at age 35, in 1964. Dr. King was the youngest man, second American, and the third black man to be so honored. He accepted this on behalf of the civil rights movement, not on behalf of himself.
  • The Marcus Garvey Prize for Human Rights, presented by the Jamaican Government, posthumously, 1968.
  • The Rosa L. Parks award, presented by The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, posthumously, 1968.

 

Written works

Dr. King is famous for his rousing speeches. He was truly a great orator. But, he was also the person who wrote those speeches. In addition to writing and delivering speeches and doing so many other things to promote peace, love, and justice, he wrote six books:A

 

Hate, Lies, and Deception

04 April 1968. Dr. King slain by a bullet that severed his spine just below his chin. James Earl Ray arrested for it. Ray denied doing it, even on his deathbed. 

July 1969. Dr. King's younger brother Alfred Daniel, died in a violent "accident" at his home in Atlanta GA.

30 June 1974. Dr. King's mother, Mrs. Alberta Williams King was shot to death killed as she sat at the organ in the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA. At her funeral, her husband, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr., said,  “I cannot hate any man.”

08 December 1999. A jury of twelve citizens of Shelby County, TN (Memphis area) concluded in Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King, III, Bernice King, Dexter Scott King and Yolanda King Vs. Loyd Jowers and Other Unknown Conspirators that Loyd Jowers and governmental agencies including the City of Memphis, the State of Tennessee, and the federal government were party to the conspiracy to assassinate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Coretta Scott King lives yet today. Her father-in-law, Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. died on 11 November 1984 of a heart attack at Crawford W. Long Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, GA. He was 84 years of age. Funeral services were held on November 14, 1984.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Posters:

 

 

 

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