Martin Luther King served as the catalyst and voice of America’s
civil rights movement. Today, decades after his tragic death,
his memory holds strong and he continues to be one of the most
influential leaders of America. He was born in Atlanta on
January 15, 1929, the second child of Reverend Martin Luther
King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King. A highly motivated child,
Martin Luther King, Jr. entered Morehouse College to study
religion at age 15. He was a junior in college when he was
ordained a minister and made the assistant pastor of Ebenezer
Baptist Church, where his father and grandfather before him had
served as pastors.
Martin Luther King, Jr. entered Crozier Theological Seminary in
Chester, PA, where he began to seriously study the life and work
of Mohandas K. Ghandi. "I came to see for the first
time," he later wrote, "that the Christian doctrine of
love, operating through the Ghandhian method of nonviolence, is
one of the most potent weapons available to an oppressed people
in the struggle for freedom."
working toward his doctorate degree in Systematic Theology at
Boston University, Martin Luther King, Jr. met and married
Coretta Scott. In May, 1954, he became the new pastor of the
Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. The
following year, on December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give
up her bus seat to a white man. Her courage triggered the
Montgomery Bus Boycott and thrust Dr. King to the forefront of a
citywide protest against local segregation laws. He organized
the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) and advised
African-Americans to boycott the buses and picket businesses
owned by white people. In 1956, the United States Supreme Court
ruled that Alabama's bus segregation laws were unconstitutional
and the victory established Dr. King as a national leader paving
the way for desegregation in other areas, most notably in public
school systems around the country.
Dr. King helped organize the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference (SCLC) to end segregation using non-violent protests.
He led numerous demonstrations against discrimination including
rallies, sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, voter registration drives,
and the 1963 March on Washington where he delivered his famed
"I Have A
Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln
Memorial. These efforts received international acclaim and
recognition when Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in
1964. Dr. King, through his powerful and sincere speeches,
renewed the hopes, determination and spirit of all people
seeking to improve their own lives and advance the principles of
humanity nationwide and around the world.
last protest took place on March 28, 1968 when he led a march in
Memphis, TN, in support of striking sanitation workers. He was
assassinated seven days later, on April 4, while standing on the
balcony of his second-floor room at the Lorraine Motel in
Memphis. Dr. King's death was mourned by millions of people
around the world. In 1985, President Reagan signed a
proclamation declaring the third Monday in January of each year
a public holiday in honor of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr. His life and legacy will live on and the leaders of
today can learn from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s philosophies,
speeches and actions as a man who epitomized peace, harmony,
determination, righteousness, justice and freedom for all
January 20th, 2014 is the 85th anniversary of Dr. King's birth. Let us all
remember Dr. King and carry forth the legacy and work of Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. through research, education and training
principles, philosophy and methods of nonviolence.
Coretta Scott King
Human Rights Activist and Leader
Coretta Scott King is one of the
most influential women leaders in our world today. Prepared by
her family, education, and personality for a life committed to
social justice and peace, she entered the world stage in 1955 as
wife of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and as a
leading participant in the American Civil Rights Movement.
Her remarkable partnership with
Dr. King resulted not only in four talented children, but in a
life devoted to the highest values of human dignity in service
to social change. Mrs. King has traveled throughout our nation
and world speaking out on behalf of racial and economic justice,
women's and children's rights, gay and lesbian dignity,
religious freedom, the needs of the poor and homeless,
full-employment, health care, educational opportunities, nuclear
disarmament and ecological sanity.
In her distinguished and
productive career, she has lent her support to democracy
movements world-wide and served as a consultant to many world
leaders, including Corazon Aquino, Kenneth Kaunda, and Nelson
Born and raised in Marion, Alabama, Coretta Scott graduated
valedictorian from Lincoln High School. She received a B.A. in
music and education from Antioch College in Yellow Springs,
Ohio, and then went on to study concert singing at Boston's New
England Conservatory of Music, where she earned a degree in
voice and violin. While in Boston she met Martin Luther King,
Jr. who was then studying for his doctorate in systematic
theology at Boston University. They were married on June 18,
1953, and in September 1954 took up residence in Montgomery,
Alabama, with Coretta Scott King assuming the many functions of
pastor's wife at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.
During Dr. King's career, Mrs. King devoted most of her time to
raising their four children: Yolanda Denise (1955), Martin
Luther, III (1957), Dexter Scott (1961), and Bernice Albertine
(1963). From the earliest days, however, she balanced mothering
and movement work, speaking before church, civic, college,
fraternal and peace groups. She conceived and performed a series
of favorably-reviewed Freedom Concerts which combined prose and
poetry narration with musical selections and functioned as
fundraisers for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference,
the direct action organization of which Dr. King served as first
president. In 1957, she and Dr. King journeyed to Ghana to mark
that country's independence. In 1958, they spent a belated
honeymoon in Mexico, where they observed first-hand the immense
gulf between extreme wealth and extreme poverty. In 1959, Dr.
and Mrs. King spent nearly a month in India on a pilgrimage to
disciples and sites associated with Mahatma Gandhi. In 1964, she
accompanied him to Oslo, Norway, where he received the Nobel
Peace Prize. Even prior to her husband's public stand against
the Vietnam War in 1967, Mrs. King functioned as liaison to
peace and justice organizations, and as mediator to public
officials on behalf of the unheard.
Since her husband's assassination in 1968, Mrs. King has devoted
much of her energy and attention to developing programs and
building the Atlanta-based Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for
Nonviolent Social Change as a living memorial to her husband's
life and dream. Situated in the Freedom Hall complex encircling
Dr. King's tomb, The King Center is part of a 23-acre national
historic park which includes his birth home, and which hosts
over one million visitors a year. For 27 years (1968-1995), Mrs.
King devoted her life to developing The King Center, the first
institution built in memory of an African American leader. As
founding President, Chair, and Chief Executive Officer, she
dedicated herself to providing local, national and international
programs that have trained tens of thousands of people in Dr.
King's philosophy and methods; she guided the creation and
housing of the largest archives of documents from the Civil
Rights Movement; and, perhaps her greatest legacy after
establishing The King Center itself, Mrs. King spearheaded the
massive educational and lobbying campaign to establish Dr.
King's birthday as a national holiday. In 1983, an act of
Congress instituted the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday
Commission, which she chaired for its duration. And in January
1986, Mrs. King oversaw the first legal holiday in honor of her
husband--a holiday which has come to be celebrated by millions
of people world-wide and, in some form, in over 100 countries.
Coretta Scott King has carried the message of nonviolence and
the dream of the beloved community to almost every corner of our
nation and globe. She has led goodwill missions to many
countries in Africa, Latin America, Europe and Asia. She has
spoken at many of history's most massive peace and justice
rallies. She served as a Women's Strike for Peace delegate to
the seventeen-nation Disarmament Conference in Geneva,
Switzerland in 1962. She is the first woman to deliver the class
day address at Harvard, and the first woman to preach at a
statutory service at St. Paul's Cathedral in London.
A life-long advocate of interracial coalitions, in 1974 Mrs.
King formed a broad coalition of over 100 religious, labor,
business, civil and women's rights organizations dedicated to a
national policy of full employment and equal economic
opportunity, as Co-Chair of the Full Employment Action Council.
In 1983, she brought together more than 800 human rights
organizations to form the Coalition of Conscience, sponsors of
the 20th Anniversary March on Washington, until then the largest
demonstration in our nation's capital. In 1987, she helped lead
a national Mobilization Against Fear and Intimidation in Forsyth
County, Georgia. In 1988, she re-convened the Coalition of
Conscience for the 25th anniversary of the March on Washington.
In preparation for the Reagan-Gorbachev talks, in 1988 she
served as head of the U.S. delegation of Women for a Meaningful
Summit in Athens, Greece; and in 1990, as the USSR was
redefining itself, Mrs. King was co-convener of the
Soviet-American Women's Summit in Washington, DC.
Always close to her family, in 1985 Mrs. King and three of her
children were arrested at the South African embassy in
Washington, DC, for protesting against apartheid. And, in 1995
she turned over leadership of the Center to her son, Dexter
Scott King, who served as Chairman, President & CEO until
January 2004. On that date, Mrs. King was named interim Chair
and her eldest son Martin Luther King, III assumed the
leadership position of President & CEO.
One of the most influential African-American leaders of our
time, Mrs. King has received honorary doctorates from over 60
colleges and universities; has authored three books and a
nationally-syndicated column; and has served on, and helped
found, dozens of organizations, including the Black Leadership
Forum, the National Black Coalition for Voter Participation, and
the Black Leadership Roundtable.
She has dialogued with heads of state, including prime ministers
and presidents; and she has put in time on picket lines with
welfare rights mothers. She has met with great spiritual
leaders, including Pope John Paul, the Dalai Lama, Dorothy Day,
and Bishop Desmond Tutu. She has witnessed the historic
handshake between Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Chairman
Yassir Arafat at the signing of the Middle East Peace Accords.
She has stood with Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg when he became
South Africa's first democratically-elected president. A woman
of wisdom, compassion and vision, Coretta Scott King has tried
to make ours a better world and, in the process, has made
Mrs. King died in 2006 and is today interred
alongside her husband in a memorial crypt in the reflecting pool
of The King Center’s Freedom Hall Complex, visited by hundreds
of thousands of people from all over the world year-round. The
inscription on the crypt memorializing her life of service is
from I Corinthians 13:13 –“And now abide faith, hope, love,
these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
SIX PRINCIPLES OF NONVIOLENCE
- PRINCIPLE ONE: Kingian
Nonviolence is Not for Cowards.
- Nonviolence has a complete
disrespect for violence. It will not adopt violent tactics to
reach its goal and will avoid violence in resolving conflicts
- Dr. King stressed the
importance of resisting violence in any form. He preferred and
recommended nonviolence because it represented a more humane,
noble and honorable method in the path to justice.
- Nonviolence is affirmatively
standing not only against what is wrong but also for what is
right and just.
- PRINCIPLE TWO: The Beloved
Community is a World of Peace with Justice.
- The Beloved Community is a
framework for developing a future in which one can deal
effectively with unjust conditions.
- The "Ends and Means" is
dealt with by this principle. You cannot achieve just ends
by unjust means; you cannot use violent means to achieve
- PRINCIPLE THREE: Attack
Injustice, Not Persons Doing Unjust Deeds.
- Humor, anger and
indignation about conditions were the focus of Dr. King's
energy and attention. People are not the problem; what
must be changed are the conditions under which some people
- Focusing anger and
indignation on personalities is not only violent, but
often produces more violence or apathy about the real
problems and conditions.
- PRINCIPLE FOUR: Accept
Suffering Without Retaliation for the Sake of the Cause to
Achieve a Goal.
- Suffering is not to be
confused with further harm to one's self or
"self-victimization." Acceptance of harsh and unmerited
punishment for a just cause helps the individual and the
community grow in spiritual and humanitarian
- Willingness to endure
hardship for a clearly defined just cause can have an
impact on those committing acts of violence as well as
on the larger community.
- PRINCIPLE FIVE: Avoid
Internal Violence of the Spirit as Well as External
- Our attitudes and
commitment to practicing nonviolence, when faced with
violence or issues, are communicated through our
actions, which in turn are determined by our
- Body language as well
as verbal expression communicate our real feelings and
thoughts about a particular situation. Internal
conflicts and violent feelings color these
- PRINCIPLE SIX: The
Universe is on the Side of Justice.
- Society is oriented
to a just sense of order in the universe.
Nonviolence is in tune with this concept, and the
movement must strike this chord in society.
- Every person is
opposed to wrong and unjust behavior in a particular
situation. Given our understanding of the problem,
we must never lose hope that human beings, even our
opponents, are able to respond.
THE SIX STEPS