Historical Figures

Martin Luther King - Short Biography

Martin Luther King was an American pastor committed to equal civil rights for black people. In line with Gandhi in India, he defends non-violent methods to fight against racial discrimination and obtain reforms. Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, he organized a march on Washington during which he gave a speech that would become famous:I have a dream . He was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. Since 1986 the United States has commemorated his memory every year on Martin Luther King Day, indisputable proof of the historical impact of the character.

Martin Luther King, a committed pastor

Born in Atlanta in 1929, in the heart of the segregationist Old South, he was the son of a family of Baptist ministers. he studied at Boston University and obtained his doctorate in philosophy in 1955. A brilliant student, with a degree in theology, he chose the paternal way. Ordained as a minister in the Baptist Church in 1947, he was appointed to a black parish in Montgomery, Alabama.

The southern United States then experienced a wave of racial violence against Afro-Maericans. From 1955 to 1956, Luther King engaged in the fight against segregationists during the Montgomery bus boycott, organized following the arrest of Rosa Parks, a black woman who had sat in the place of a white man on a bus, refusing to leave his seat. He was imprisoned for a few months, but finally obtained the abolition of segregation in public transport in the city of Montgomery.

Black American Leader

Physically threatened by segregationist terrorists and imprisoned for a time, the pastor gradually became a figure in the civil rights movement. A brilliant speaker, he was noticed both by liberal circles and by the FBI, who suspected him of communist sympathies. In the tradition of Gandhi in India, Martin Luther King defends non-violent methods to obtain more reforms. By calling on blacks to boycott municipal buses, he won his first victory in 1956 against racial segregation in the means of transport.

In 1957 he founded the Southern Christian Leaders Conference (S.C.L.C.), which organized boycotts, "freedom marches", sit-ins and fought against the segregation in schools and homes. He rallied to him an enthusiastic university youth, gathered in the Coordinating Committee of Nonviolent Students. Its action reached its peak in the early 1960s, and on August 25, 1963, Martin Luther King led a spectacular freedom march in Washington with 250,000 people.

Martin Luther King have a dream

A non-violent activist, he would have his day of glory at the end of the march on Washington with his famous speech:"I Have a Dream", on August 28, 1963. "I have this dream that one day my four children will live in a country where they will no longer be judged on the color of their skin, but on their abilities..."

Supported (after some initial reluctance) by President Kennedy, he is recognized as a figure of international stature and even received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. The end of the 1960s was an opportunity for him to rise up against the Vietnam War and to decry the excesses of capitalism, which would once again earn him be suspected of pro communist sympathies.

Nobel Peace Prize (1964), he was to be overtaken by extremist black movements such as Malcolm X's Black Muslims and Carmichael's Black Power. The non-violent actions that he launched from 1965 throughout the country all ended in failure, and often in bloody clashes. In April 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee , while a demonstration organized by him will degenerate into acts of looting and vandalism, Martin Luther King Junior is assassinated on the balcony of a hotel . This murder, the circumstances of which are still shrouded in mystery today, will make him one of the great American political myths of the 20th century.

Located in Atlanta, the Martin Luther King Foundation includes the birthplace and tomb of Martin Luther King, as well as the Ebenezer Baptist Church where he preached. Many of the pastor's writings are kept there.


- Martin Luther King, biography of Alain Foix. Folio, 2012.

- Autobiography, by Martin Luther King. Bayard Culture, 2015.

- The strength to love, speech by Martin Luther King. Footprints, 2013.