The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. devoted his life and career to protesting injustice. The following timeline identifies the times and places in King’s short life where he significantly influenced the civil rights movement and the future of America.
Jan. 15, 1929: Michael Luther King Jr. is born to the Rev. Michael Luther King Sr. and Alberta Williams King in Atlanta. Five years later, King Sr. changes his and his son’s first names to Martin in honor of Martin Luther, the father of Protestantism.
1947: King becomes licensed to preach.
May 8, 1951: King receives bachelor of divinity degree from Crozer Theological Seminary
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June 18, 1953: King marries Coretta Scott in Marion, Ala. Coretta Scott King continued her husband’s legacy as a civil rights activist until her death in 2006.
June 5, 1955: King receives a doctorate in systematic theology from Boston University.
Feb. 21, 1956: King and other demonstrators are arrested for participating in the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott.
1956: White anger over the bus boycott results in the bombing of four African-American churches as well as the homes of civil rights leaders and E.D. Nixon and King.
1956: A court order forces the University of Alabama to accept Autherine Lucy, its first African-American student, but the university manages to find legal ways of preventing her attending the university.
1956: On Nov. 13, the Supreme Court upholds the decision made by the Alabama district court, which ruled in favor of the boycotters of the Montgomery bus lines.
1956: The Montgomery bus boycott finally ends in December, and results in Montgomery buses being fully integrated.
January 1957: Between Jan. 10 and 11, a group of Southern black ministers convene in Atlanta to discuss strategies to fight segregation. King is named chairman of the Southern Negro Leaders Conference on Transportation and Nonviolent Integration. The group is later named the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Feb. 18, 1957: King appears on the cover of Time magazine.
May 17, 1957: King delivers his first national address, “Give Us the Ballot,” at the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom gathering in Washington, D.C.
February 1959: King and his wife spend a month in India studying Mahatma Gandhi’s technique of nonviolence. King was an avid supporter of nonviolent protest.
Oct. 19, 1960: King is arrested for trespassing while taking part in a sit-in demonstration at a lunch counter in Atlanta. Sit-ins were nonviolent anti-segregation protests where African-American demonstrators refused to leave restaurants and public places that were designated as white-only.
Dec. 16, 1961: While protesting segregation in Albany, Ga., King is arrested.
July 27, 1962: King is again arrested in Albany, Ga., after taking part in a prayer vigil. He is charged with failure to obey a police officer, obstructing the sidewalk and disorderly conduct.
April 16, 1963: After being arrested in Birmingham, Ala., for participating in a sit-in, King writes “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” The letter is now one of King’s most famous statements about injustice.
Aug. 28, 1963: King delivers his “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the thousands who gathered for the March on Washington. Afterward, he and other civil rights leaders meet with President Kennedy in the White House.
Dec. 10, 1964: King receives the Nobel Peace Prize.
Jan. 26, 1966: King moves into Chicago slum apartment and announces his intention to begin a campaign against discrimination.
June 6, 1966: James Meredith beings his journey on the “March Against Fear” on June 6, from Memphis, Tenn., to encourage African-American Mississippians to register to vote. Near Hernando, Miss., Meredith is shot. Others, including King, take up the march.
June 26, 1966: On June 26, the marchers reach their destination of Jackson, Miss. Tensions emerge during the final days of the march over embracing the “black power” slogan.
1966: The Supreme Court establishes Miranda rights for criminal suspects, including the right to remain silent.
1966: Robert Weaver becomes the first African-American Cabinet member when President Lyndon Johnson appoints him secretary of housing and urban development.
1966: National Organization for Women (NOW) is established to fight politically for full equality between the sexes.
Aug. 5, 1966: King is stoned in Chicago as he leads a march through crowds of angry whites.
1967: On April 4, King speaks at Riverside Church in New York and delivers “Beyond Vietnam,” voicing his opposition to the Vietnam War. The sermon places King at odds with President Lyndon Johnson.
1967: “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?” is published in June.
1967: King focuses his attention on poverty issues in announcing plans for the Poor People’s Campaign that will culminate in Washington, D.C.
April 4, 1968: King is fatally shot in the neck while on the balcony of his second-floor motel room in Memphis, Tenn. A day earlier, King gave his final speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top.”
March 9, 1969: James Earl Ray pleads guilty to killing King and is sentenced to 99 years in the Tennessee State Penitentiary. He dies in prison in 1998.
Sept. 17, 1973: Illinois becomes the first state to declare King’s birthday a legal holiday.
Jan. 20, 1986: The first national King holiday is observed.
Sources: McClatchy Tribune, Stanford University