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EDUCATION AND EARLY LIFE Martin Luther King, Jr., was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the oldest son of Martin Luther King Sr., a Baptist minister, and Alberta Williams King. His father was a pastor at an immense Atlanta church, The Ebenezer Baptist church, which had been founded by Martin Luther King Jr.’s maternal grandfather. King Jr. was an ordained Baptist minister at the age of 18. King attended the local segregated public schools, where he excelled. He attended nearby Morehouse College at age 15 and earned his bachelor’s degree when he graduated. When he graduated with honors from, Crozer Seminary located in Pennsylvania in 1951, he went to Boston University where he earned a doctoral degree in systematic theology in 1955. King’s public-speaking abilities—which would become renowned as his stature grew in the civil rights movement – developed slowly during his collegiate years. The first couple of years at Crozer his public-speaking was looked upon as average and he received C’s in each of his public-speaking classes in his first year. But King worked and worked on his public-speaking that, by the end of his third year at Crozer, the professors were praising King for the powerful impression he made in public speeches and discussions. Throughout his education, King was exposed to influences that related Christians theology to the struggles of oppressed peoples. At Morehouse, Crozer, and Boston University, he studied the teachings on the nonviolent protests of Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi. King also read and heard the sermons of white ministers who protested against American racism. All of these things were especially important in shaping King’s theological development. While in Boston, King met Coretta Scott, a music student and native of Alabama. They were married in 1953 and would have four children. In 1954 King accepted his first pastoring job at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, a church in Montgomery, Alabama, a church with a well educated congregation that had recently been led by a minister who had protested against racism and segregation. THE MONTGOMERY BUS BOYCOTT In Montgomery’s black community there were longstanding grievances about the mistreatment of blacks on city buses. Many white bus drivers treated blacks rudely. It was not uncommon to find blacks being cursed out and humiliated because of the segregation laws being forced on them. These laws forced black bus riders to sit in the back of the bus and give up their seats to white passengers on crowded buses. By the early 1950’s Montgomery’s blacks had discussed boycotting the buses in an effort to gain better treatment. On December 1,1955, Rosa Parks, a leading member of the local branch of the National Advancement of Colored People, was ordered to move and give up her seat to a white passenger. When she refused she was arrested and taken to jail. Local leaders of the NAACP recognized that the arrest of the popular and highly respected Parks was the event that could rally local blacks to a bus protest. These leaders also believed that the city protest should be led by someone who could unify the community. Unlike the NAACP, the recently arrived King had no enemies. Furthermore the NAACP saw King’s public-speaking gifts as great assets in the battle for black civil rights in Montgomery. King was soon chosen as president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, the organization that directed the bus boycott. The Montgomery bus boycott lasted for more than a year. Incidents of violence against black protesters, including the bombing of King’s home, focused media attention on Montgomery. In February 1956 an attorney for the MIA filed a lawsuit in federal seeking an injunction against Montgomery’s segregated seating practices. The federal court ruled in favor of the MIA, ordering the city buses to be desegregated. CIVIL RIGHTS LEADERSHIP In 1957 King helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization of black church and ministers that aimed to challenge racial segregation. The SCLC protested discrimination through marches, demonstrations, and boycotts. King made strategic alliances with northern whites that would improve his success at influencing public opinion in the United States. Through Bayard Rustin, a black civil rights activists, King forged connections to older more knowledgeable activists who provided money and advice about strategy.

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