Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was a Baptist minister and civil rights activist who had a huge impact on race relations in the United States, beginning in the mid-1950s. Martin was originally born Michael King Jr. until his father change his name to Martin later. Martin Luther attended segregated public schools in Georgia, graduating from high school at the age of fifteen then attended Morehouse College. When he graduated from Morehouse in 1948 with a sociology degree at age 19, he was ordained as a minister and attended the liberal Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. After that, he attended graduate school at Boston University, where he received his Ph.D. degree in 1955.

In April 1963, MLK and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) joined Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights in a nonviolent campaign to end segregation and force Birmingham, Alabama, businesses to hire Black people. Fire hoses and vicious dogs were unleashed on the protesters by “Bull” Connor’s police officers. King was thrown into jail. King spent eight days in the Birmingham jail because of this arrest but used the time to write “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” affirming his peaceful philosophy. On June 11, 1963, President John F. Kennedy drafted the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was signed into law by President Johnson after Kennedy’s assassination. The law prohibited racial discrimination in public, ensured the “constitutional right to vote,” and outlawed discrimination in places of employment. Then came the March in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963. Nearly 250,000 Americans listened to speeches by civil rights activists, but most had come for MLK.

Among his many efforts, MLK headed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Through his activism and inspirational speeches, he played a pivotal role in ending the legal segregation of African American citizens in the United States, as well as the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. MLK won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, among several other honors. He continues to be remembered as one of the most influential and inspirational African American leaders in history.