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Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

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Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. speaking at Fisk University.

The son of an Atlanta preacher, Martin Luther King, Jr. rose to national attention when, as a 26-year-old minister just starting out in Montgomery, Alabama, he helped lead the bus boycott that initiated the modern civil rights movement. In 1957 King and some associates formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and despite numerous arrests and threats, he remained committed to nonviolent protest as the means of effecting social change. King helped the United States re-envision itself as an interracial democracy when he delivered the famous "I Have a Dream" speech at 1963's March on Washington. Later that decade he broadened his focus to include economic justice, Northern ghettos, and opposition to the Vietnam war. King was assassinated by James Earl Ray on April 4 in Memphis, Tennessee, during the tumultuous year of 1968. In 1986 his birthday became a national holiday, making him the first non-president to be so honored.

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