Martin Luther King Jr.

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Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) was a Baptist minister in Atlanta, Georgia, leader in the U.S. civil rights movement and president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who gave his I Have a Dream speech at the 1963 March on Washington. He was the recipient of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize (youngest recipient).


There was a failed attempt to assassinate King in 1958 (see Izola Curry), when he was stabbed by an African American woman during a book-signing in New York, New York.

On April 4th, 1968, King was fatally shot in Memphis, Tennessee by escaped convict James Earl Ray. Ray confessed to, and was convicted for, the killing. Because there were no television crews with the King entourage or in the vicinity, initial reports were inaccurate and somewhat dispassionate, though full television coverage followed soon after. The shooting took place at about 6 p.m., during the evening news period in the United States.

The juxtaposition of King’s violent death against his professed philosophy of non-violence had a profound effect on many people in diverse walks of life. President Lyndon B. Johnson called for a rejection of the type of violence that had led to King’s death. Ballet dancer Arthur Mitchell said that he was prompted to give up his own dancing career and look for a way to “give back” to the African American community, a search that would lead to the founding of the Dance Theatre of Harlem. At the time, there were spontaneous expressions of anger, with rioting in over 60 American cities and civil unrest in many others.

A week after King's death, President Johnson signed the Civil Right Bill.