Happy Birthday, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
On this day in 1929, Michael Luther King Jr. was born. His name was later changed to Martin because his father, Michael Sr. changed his name to Martin after the reformer Martin Luther. The name change took place for both Sr. and Jr. in 1934 when Dr. King was 5 years old.
Given the title "Drum Major for Justice," Dr. King is only the third American whose birthday is recognized as a federal holiday, a distinction not even given to Ben Franklin, JFK, Thomas Jefferson or FDR. He was the most significant American of the 20th century. Being the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 35, Dr. King used the prize money, which was $54,123, to help fund his fight for civil rights in America.
Dr. King was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957. During his term as their president, he traveled and spoke wherever there was injustice, protest and action. He led a massive protest in Birmingham, Ala., that caught the attention of the entire world, which provided what he titled a "Coalition of Conscience" and inspired him to write his famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."
This letter was a call to action to kick-start the Negro revolution, which included drives in Alabama for voter registration for blacks, the famous and peaceful march on Washington, where he delivered his "I Have a Dream Speech" in front of 250,000 people, he consulted with President John F. Kennedy and campaigned for President LBJ.
During his fight for civil rights, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested 20 times and physically assaulted at least four times. He was also awarded five honorary degrees, TIME magazine named him Man of the Year in 1963 and he became a symbolic leader of black Americans as well as a world figure.
He died at the age of 39 after being assassinated by James Earl Ray on April 4, 1968.
Happy Birthday to you Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.