Friday, January 15, 2010


Martin Luther King Jr. was born on this day in 1929, in Atlanta. A soft-spoken man, conservatively-dressed in suit and tie, a Baptist minister, a believer in common ground and non-violence, King still managed to upset a lot of people. White people accustomed to the Jim Crow traditions of the South felt threatened by him. Even so, his protests were more like walks than marches. They sang hymns.

Martin preached the part in the Bible about turning the other cheek, about answering violence with gentle but firm persistence, even when the police got out the fire department's water cannons. He didn't believe in giving in though. Gentle firm persistence was met with more violence. J. Edgar Hoover set the FBI onto him to destroy his reputation. King was eventually murdered like others in the civil rights movement had been.

He came to national attention in 1955 after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery Alabama bus. King led the bus boycott that followed. He was 26. In 1963 he delivered his famous "I have a dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, and died in 1968 at the age of 39. Martin Luther King Jr. appears four times in A Book of Ages.

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