Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a Baptist minister, obtained a PhD in systemic theology from Boston University, and won the Nobel Peace Prize. He was also a freelance civil rights leader.

Photograph by James P. Blair, National Geographic

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    On January 15, 1929, Michael King, Jr., was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Five years later, King’s father, a Baptist minister, attended an international conference in Germany. After the conference, the elder King was inspired to change both his own and his son’s names to honor the German Protestant reformer Martin Luther. Martin Luther King, Jr., became one of the most important leaders of the civil rights movement in the United States.
     
    King’s influence extended far beyond the United States, however. His use of non-violent action and civil disobedience earned the admiration and respect of the international community, culminating in the Nobel Peace Prize of 1964. 
     
    “We are in an era in which the issue of human rights is the central question confronting all nations,” King said in a speech opposing the racist apartheid government of South Africa. This made the civil rights movement universal: “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed” and, “with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers in Asia, South America, and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice.”
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    admiration Noun

    feeling of respect and approval.

    apartheid Noun

    (1948-1993) South African government's policy of separating different races of people.

    Baptist Noun

    member of a Protestant denomination that emphasizes the importance of baptism as a testament to the Christian faith.

    bigotry Noun

    prejudice or intolerance.

    boycott Verb

    to stop using or buying a product, or to stop using or buying products at a specific location, usually to make a social or political statement.

    civil disobedience Noun

    peaceful refusal to obey certain laws, used as a form of protest and in order to achieve political goals.

    civil rights movement Noun

    (~1954-1968) process to establish equal rights for all people in the United States, focusing on the rights of African Americans.

    conference Noun

    meeting for discussion.

    culminate Verb

    to reach the highest point or most important part of something.

    demonstration Noun

    organized public display of support or criticism for a policy or event.

    economic Adjective

    having to do with money.

    era Noun

    time period.

    government Noun

    system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

    human rights Noun

    basic freedoms belonging to every individual, including the rights to social and political expression, spirituality, and opportunity.

    inequality Noun

    difference in size, amount, or quality between two or more things.

    influence Noun

    force that effects the actions, behavior, or policies of others.

    injustice Noun

    act or behavior that is unfair or discriminates against a group of people.

    justice Noun

    administration of law.

    March on Washington Noun

    (March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom) demonstration supporting economic and civil rights for all Americans, held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963, and concluding with Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

    minister Noun

    pastor, or person authorized by a church to conduct worship.

    Negro noun, adjective

    throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, a common word for people of African ancestry.

    Nobel Peace Prize Noun

    award recognizing the contributions of a person or organization to "work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace."

    oppress Verb

    to unjustly discriminate against, torment, or persecute.

    Poor People's March Noun

    (1968) part of a campaign for civil and economic rights for poor people in the United States, including a "tent city" erected on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

    protest noun, verb

    demonstration against a policy or action.

    Protestant Noun

    Christian who is not a follower of Catholic or Orthodox faiths.

    racism Noun

    government or social system based on the belief that one ethnic group is superior to all others.

    racist Adjective

    community or government policy of denying certain rights to people based on their ancestry, usually signified by skin color.

    reform noun, verb

    change or improvement of a policy or process.

    Selma to Montgomery March Noun

    (March 21, 1965-March 25, 1965) protest to support voting rights for African Americans, taking the form of a 87-kilometer (54-mile) walk between the Alabama town of Selma and the capital, Montgomery.

    sit-in Noun

    demonstration where protesters occupy a space and refuse to leave it.

    urgent Adjective

    requiring immediate action.

    violent Noun

    strong, destructive force.

    voting rights Noun

    issues surrounding the legal right and ability to campaign and cast a vote in political elections.