By Bernard Freeman
A Timeline of King’s Life
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., leading light of the American Civil Rights movement, was an advocate for nonviolent resistance to injustice and is recognized as a worldwide leader in civil rights, poverty and other injustice.
From The King Center, here is a timeline of notable events in his life:
Jan. 15, 1929: Born in Atlanta to the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. and Alberta Williams King.
1944-1948: Attends Morehouse College in Atlanta.
1948-1951: Attends Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania.
June 18, 1953: Married Coretta Scott in Marion, Alabama.
1954: Accepts job as pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.
1955: Graduates a doctor from Boston University’s School of Theology.
Nov. 17, 1955: Daughter, Yolanda Denise, born in Montgomery.
December 1955: Appointed head of the Montgomery Improvement Association, which was formed to protest Rosa Parks’ arrest for refusing to move to give up her bus seat to a white man. King became one of the leaders of the Montgomery bus boycott, which eventually led to the 1956 Supreme Court decision overturning Alabama’s bus segregation laws.
Jan. 10, 1957: King, along with C.K. Steele, Fred Shuttlesworth and T.J. Jemison, form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. King is the president. The group aims to coordinate civil rights activities in the South.
Oct. 23, 1957: Son Martin Luther III born in Montgomery.
Nov. 20, 1957: First book, “Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story,” published.
Sept. 20, 1958: Izola Curry attempts to kill King at a Harlem book signing. She stabbed him with a letter opener.
1960: Moves to Atlanta and, along with his father, becomes co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Jan. 30, 1961: Son Dexter Scott born in Atlanta.
March 28, 1963: Daughter Bernice Albertine born in Atlanta.
April 16, 1963: Writes “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” after being arrested during demonstrations for civil rights in Birmingham, Alabama.
Aug. 26, 1963: Gives the famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C., during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
December 1964: Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
1966: Moves to Chicago and begins to fight against poverty.
April 4, 1967: Speaks out against the Vietnam War during a speech in New York.
December 1967: Begins the Poor People’s Campaign.
March 28, 1968: Leads a march supporting striking Memphis sanitation workers.
April 4, 1968: Assassinated by James Earl Ray at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.
Love and Nonviolence
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was a staunch believer that violence was not the way to resist injustice.
He and his supporters believed in transforming Christian love into powerful peaceful change through grassroots organizing and nonviolent protests such as marches and boycotts.
Agape is a term largely found in Christian belief that means a love that is spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless and creative. The term is at the heart of King’s belief in a knowable God and that love and nonviolence could fix America’s racial problems, says the King Encyclopedia maintained by Stanford University’s The Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute.
“At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love,” King said. “When we rise to love on the agape level, we love men not because we like them, not because their attitudes and ways appeal to us, but we love them because God loves them. Here we rise to the position of loving the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed that the person does.”
King was introduced to nonviolence when he read Henry David Thoreau’s “Essay on Civil Disobedience” as a freshman at Morehouse College. He was fascinated, he wrote, by the “idea of refusing to cooperate with an evil system.” During his education, King refined his ideas about nonviolent protest and social reform, but he didn’t put it into practice until the Montgomery bus boycott.
To King, nonviolence had six principles, according to the Stanford University encyclopedia. First, that evil can be resisted without violence. Second, that through nonviolence, the protester seeks to win the friendship and understanding of the opponent, not humiliate him. Thirdly, that evil, not the people perpetrating the evil, be opposed. Fourth, that people committed to nonviolence must be willing to suffer without retribution and suffering can be redemptive. Fifth, that nonviolence avoids both physical violence and the “internal violence of the spirit,” meaning the protester refuses to shoot his opponent but also refuses to hate him. Lastly, the protester must believe in the future and be convinced that the universe is on the side of justice.
The MLK Memorial
Rising 30 feet above the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. is a granite statue of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. that memorializes the man and his role in the American civil rights movement. Dedicated in 2011, the park sits at 1964 Independence Ave., S.W., with the address memorializing the passage of Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Congress authorized King’s fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, to establish a memorial in the nation’s capitol in 1996. ROMA Design Group’s plan won an international competition with a design that paid homage to a line from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech: “With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.:
The design depicts King’s image, the Stone of Hope, emerging from a Mountain of Despair. Each part of the monument incorporates scrape marks to symbolize struggle and movement.
Chinese Master Lei Yixin became the official sculptor of the monument in 2007. According to the National Parks Service, Lei filled his studio with photographs of King. He worked with the foundation and the King family to choose the material, a shrimp pink granite, and to generate the final likeness. More than 150 granite blocks were sent to Lei’s Changsha, China, studio, where he assembled and sculpted 80 percent of the work. The statue was then shipped back stateside, and Lei completed it onsite.
The quotes engraved on the memorial were done over more than two years by Nick Benson, a third-generation stone carver.
The memorial originally included a paraphrased quote from King’s 1968 drum major sermon. It said, “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” The original quote from the sermon, which talked about the danger of the personal ego and asked the congregation to serve others, read, “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”
Eminent poet and author Maya Angelou said the paraphrase made King “look like an arrogant twit,” and the phrase seemed to be at odds with the sermon’s message of selflessness. In 2012, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar decided to remove the quote, and Lei returned in 2013 to modify the memorial.