About Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.
A Biographical Sketch
Birth and Family
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born at noon Tuesday, January 15, 1929, at the family home in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Charles Johnson was the physician. Martin Luther King, Jr., was the first son and second child born to the Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr., and Alberta Williams King. He married the former Coretta Scott on June 18, 1953. They had 4 children – Yolanda, Martin III, Dexter, and Bernice.
Dr. King advanced to Morehouse College without formal graduation from Booker T. Washington. Having skipped both the ninth and twelfth grades, Dr. King entered Morehouse College at the age of fifteen. In 1948, he graduated from Morehouse College with a B.A. degree in Sociology. In the fall of 1948, he enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. He was awarded a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Crozer in 1951. In September of 1951, Martin Luther King, Jr. began doctoral studies in Systematic Theology at Boston University. He also studied at Harvard University. He was awarded a Ph.D. degree from Boston University on June 5, 1955. Additionally, Dr. King was awarded honorary degrees from various colleges and universities in the United States and several foreign countries.
Dr. King received several hundred awards for his leadership in the Civil Rights Movement.
Among them were:
Link Magazine of New Delhi, India, listed Dr. King as one of the sixteen world leaders who had contributed most to the advancement of freedom during 1959.
Named Man of the Year by Time, 1963.
The Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. At age 35, Dr. King was the youngest man, the second American, and the third black man awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Rosa L. Parks Award, presented by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, posthumously, 1968.
James Earl Ray shot Dr. King while he was standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. James Earl Ray was arrested in London, England on June 8, 1968 and returned to Memphis, Tennessee to stand trial for the assassination of Dr. King. On March 9, 1969, before coming to trial, he entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to ninety-nine years in the Tennessee State Penitentiary.
Established in 1968 by Coretta Scott King, The King Center is the official, living memorial dedicated to the advancement of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., leader of America’s greatest nonviolent movement for justice, equality and peace.
Mr. Gandhi was a well-known inspiration to Dr. King. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869 – 1948), commonly known as Mahatma Gandhi, was the preeminent leader of Indian nationalism in British-ruled India. Employing the non-violent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for non-violence, civil rights and freedom across the world.
Son of a senior government official, Gandhi was born and raised in a Hindu Bania community in coastal Gujarat, and trained in law in London. Gandhi became famous by fighting for the civil rights of Muslim and Hindu Indians in South Africa, using the new techniques of non-violent civil disobedience that he developed. Returning to India in 1915, he set about organising peasants to protest excessive land-taxes. He became a leader of Muslims protesting the declining status of the Caliphate. Assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding women's rights, building religious and ethnic amity, ending untouchability, increasing economic self-reliance, and above all for achieving Swaraj—the independence of India from British domination.
Gandhi led Indians in protesting the national salt tax with the 400 km (250 mi) Dandi Salt March in 1930, and later in demanding the British to immediately Quit India in 1942, during World War II. He was imprisoned for that and for numerous other political offenses over the years. Gandhi sought to practice non-violence and truth in all situations, and advocated that others do the same.
In his last year, unhappy at the partition of India, Gandhi worked to stop the carnage between Muslims on the one hand and Hindus and Sikhs that raged in the border area between India and Pakistan. He was assassinated on 30 January 1948 by a Hindu nationalist who thought Gandhi was too sympathetic to India's Muslims.
Asked to give a message to the people, he would respond, "My life is my message."
Frederick Douglass was born a slave in 1818 in Maryland.
Frederick made money shinning shoes. He saved his money to buy books. When Frederick was a teenager he started working at the shipyard, which was owned by Mr. Auld. Sometimes Mr. Auld would pay him for his work. Slaves were not usually paid, but it was up to the owner if they did or not. Frederick used the money to buy books and other thing he wanted to help him learn to read.
One Sunday, the slave owners caught the slaves in their own Sunday school. Mr. Auld was furious at Frederick. He sent him to a slave breaker, a person that makes sure the slaves obey their masters by whipping them. The slave breaker’s name was Covey. He tried to escape once, but he was caught. He was whipped and beaten. Finally, Frederick decided to fight back. When Frederick got into a fight with Covey, Frederick wasn’t scared at all. He just fought back. Frederick won the fight and Covey never beat him again.
With the help of his friend, Benny, and Benny’s seaman protection papers, Frederick finally escaped to New York. This was a long hard escape. There he met David Ruggles, a free black man who was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, a path that led slaves to freedom. David Ruggles helped Frederick find a job. It was at this time that he changed his name to Frederick Douglass from Frederick Bailey. Several years later, Frederick met up with Garrison again and Garrison asked Frederick to give a speech on slavery. From that time on, Frederick Douglass went from town to town telling the story of his life and how he was a slave at one point, too.
Frederick Douglass was such a good speaker that people didn’t believe he was a slave. In order to prove that he was actually a slave, he wrote a book called the Narrative of Frederick Douglass. Because of the book, his previous owner went to court to try to get him back. Frederick escaped to England.
A few months later he returned to Boston where he became famous. He was very popular in England; the British antislavery groups raised money so that Frederick could obtain the papers necessary for freedom. President Abraham Lincoln recognized Frederick Douglas and invited him to the White House to talk to him about slavery.
Frederick Douglass continued to travel around the country giving speeches to bigger and bigger crowds. His speeches were about how he was a slave and what it was like for him growing up. He tried to convince his listeners to fight against the evils of slavery. His fame increased and he continued to publish his paper. He did not stop publishing until the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.
Frederick Douglass died in 1895. He was important in black history because he helped end slavery. It was his brave fight for the freedom of slaves that he will be remembered for. Frederick was born a slave and ended up helping end slavery through his speeches and leadership.
Most historians date the beginning of the modern civil rights movement in the United States to December 1, 1955. That was the day when a previously unknown seamstress in Montgomery, Alabama, refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. This brave woman, Rosa Parks, was arrested and fined for violating a city ordinance, but her lonely act of defiance began a movement that ended legal segregation in America, and made her an inspiration to freedom-loving people everywhere.
Rosa Parks was born Rosa Louise McCauley in Tuskegee, Alabama to James McCauley, a carpenter, and Leona McCauley, a teacher. At the age of two she moved to her grandparents' farm in Pine Level, Alabama with her mother and younger brother, Sylvester. At the age of 11 she enrolled in the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls, a private school founded by liberal-minded women from the northern United States. The school's philosophy of self-worth was consistent with Leona McCauley's advice to "take advantage of the opportunities, no matter how few they were."
The bus incident led to the formation of the Montgomery Improvement Association, led by the young pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The association called for a boycott of the city-owned bus company. The boycott lasted 382 days and brought Mrs. Parks, Dr. King, and their cause to the attention of the world. A Supreme Court Decision struck down the Montgomery ordinance under which Mrs. Parks had been fined, and outlawed racial segregation on public transportation.
Mrs. Parks spent her last years living quietly in Detroit, where she died in 2005 at the age of 92. After her death, her casket was placed in the rotunda of the United States Capitol for two days, so the nation could pay its respects to the woman whose courage had changed the lives of so many. She is the only woman and second African American in American history to lie in state at the Capitol, an honor usually reserved for Presidents of the United States.
About Chief Standing Bear
Standing Bear was born about 1834. The Ponca traditionally raised maize, vegetables and fruit trees in these sites during the summer. They ranged westward for the winter bison hunt. In Standing Bear's youth, he learned the ways of the men, how to hunt and fish, and prepared to take his place in the tribe. In 1854, when Standing Bear was a young man, the Kansas-Nebraska Act encouraged a flood of European-American settlers, and the US government pressured the Nebraska tribes to sell their land.
The land to which the Ponca moved proved unsuitable; poor farming conditions led to persistent famine. The government failed to provide the mills, personnel, schools and protection which it had promised by the 1858 treaty. In 1865 a new treaty allowed the Ponca to return to their traditional farming and burial grounds, in the much more fertile and secure area between the Niobrara and Ponca Creek east of the 1858 lands and up to the Missouri River. With the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868), however, the government illegally gave the new Ponca reservation to the Santee Dakota as part of its negotiation to end Red Cloud's War. The government soon began to seek to remove the Ponca to Indian Territory. By this time Standing Bear had married Zazette (Susette) Primeau (Primoux) and become a leader in the tribe. He and his wife had several children.
In 1875, the Ponca paramount chief White Eagle, Standing Bear, and other Ponca leaders met with US Indian Agent A. J. Carrier and signed a document allowing removal to Indian Territory (present Oklahoma).
The US Army forced the removal of the tribe, including Standing Bear and his family.
The Ponca arrived in Oklahoma too late to plant crops that year, and the government failed to provide them with the farming equipment it had promised as part of the deal. In 1878 they moved 150 miles west to the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River, south of present-day Ponca City, Oklahoma. By spring, nearly a third of the tribe had died due to starvation, malaria and related causes. Standing Bear's eldest son, Bear Shield, was among the dead. Standing Bear had promised to bury him in the Niobrara River valley homeland, so he left to travel north, with 65 followers.
Under orders from the Secretary of the Interior, Carl Schurz, who also directed the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Brigadier General George Crook had the Ponca arrested for having left the reservation in Indian Territory. The Army took Standing Bear and the others to Fort Omaha, where they were detained. Although the official orders were to return them immediately to Indian Territory, Crook was sympathetic to the Ponca and appalled to learn of the conditions they had left. He delayed their return so the Ponca could rest, regain their health, and seek legal redress. Crook told the Ponca story to Thomas Tibbles, an editor of the Omaha Daily Herald, who publicized it widely. The attorney John L. Webster offered his services pro bono and was joined by Andrew J. Poppleton, chief attorney of the Union Pacific Railroad.
They aided Standing Bear, who in April 1879 sued for a writ of habeas corpus** in U.S. District Court in Omaha, Nebraska. As the trial drew to a close, Judge Dundy announced that Chief Standing Bear would be allowed to make a speech on his own behalf. Raising his right hand, Standing Bear proceeded to speak: "That hand is not the color of yours, but if I prick it, the blood will flow, and I shall feel pain," said Standing Bear. "The blood is of the same color as yours. God made me, and I am a man."
On May 12, 1879, Judge Elmer S. Dundy ruled that "an Indian is a person" within the meaning of habeas corpus**. He stated that the federal government had failed to show a basis under law for the Poncas' arrest and captivity. It was a landmark case, recognizing that an Indian is a “person” under the law and entitled to its rights and protection. “The right of expatriation is a natural, inherent and inalienable right and extends to the Indian as well as to the more fortunate white race,” the judge concluded. Standing Bear and his followers were freed. The case gained the attention of the Hayes* administration, which provided authority for Standing Bear and some of the tribe to return to the Niobrara valley in Nebraska.
Standing Bear was elected to the Nebraska Hall of Fame.
Ponca State Park in northeastern Nebraska is named in honor of his tribe.
The 63-acre Standing Bear Park in Ponca City, Oklahoma was named in his honor. In addition to the annual pow-wow, it is the site of the Standing Bear Museum and Education Center, as well as a 22-foot-high bronze statue of the chief.
* 19th President of the United States of America, March 4, 1877 – March 4, 1881.
** Habeas corpus is a writ (legal action) which requires a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court.
Cesar's career in community organizing began in 1952, when he met and was recruited and trained by Fred Ross, a legendary community organizer who was then forming the San Jose chapter of the Community Service Organization, the most prominent and militant Latino civil rights group of its time. Cesar spent 10 years with CSO. Cesar's dream was to organize a union that would protect and serve the farm workers whose poverty and powerlessness he had shared. For years, he read everything he could find on farm worker and other unions.
He had long talks with his wife, Helen. They knew the huge risks and long odds against success. Mostly, Helen worried what would become of their eight children, then ages four to 13. So on his birthday, March 31, in 1962, Cesar resigned from CSO. With $1,200 in life savings he founded the National Farm Workers Association with 10 members - Cesar, his wife, Helen, and their eight young children. The NFWA later became the United Farm Workers of America. The Chavez family moved to Delano, California, a dusty little farm town in California's Central Valley. Helen Chavez and the older children worked in the fields to support the family. It was a tough sell at first. He would talk to 100 workers before finding one or two who weren't afraid. Too often he returned home after days on the road not having recruited anyone. He would sometimes get very discouraged.
In 1962, President Kennedy offered to make Cesar head of the Peace Corps in a part of Latin America. It would have meant a big house with servants and all the advantages for his children. Instead, Cesar turned down the job in exchange for a life of self-imposed poverty that was with him until he died.
Founding the union was a leap of faith, not just because the odds were against him, but also because he still had serious doubts; he didn't know if he would succeed. But he did it anyway. He knew he couldn't live with himself if he didn't at least try.
Over four decades, Cesar saw his share of defeats, but also historic victories. Under Cesar, the UFW achieved unprecedented gains for farm workers, establishing it as the first successful farm workers union in American history. He demanded farm workers strictly adhere to a pledge of nonviolence. This different vision of organizing people spurred opposition from inside the UFW. In 1968, his insistence on nonviolence drew dissent from some union staff and young male strikers frustrated by slow progress of the grape strike and anxious to retaliate against abusive growers. Some strikers and staff left the union during his 25-day fast for nonviolence, but Cesar prevailed. Sen. Robert Kennedy came to Delano as the fast ended, which is when he called Cesar "one of the heroic figures of our time."
Tahirih was a disciple in the Babi religion, the predecessor to the Baha'i Faith, which originated in Persia in the early 1800's. Baha'i has roots in Islam and is related in some ways to Sufism, a mystical form of Islam, although it is a separate religion.
Tahirih was educated by her father, who was a mullah. Upon reading the writings of Shykh Ahmad-i-Ahs’i, or the Bab (a forerunner of the Babi religion), she became a devotee and later was appointed one of His closest disciples. The religion’s positive views regarding the equality of men and women, and its drive to reform existing Muslim laws appealed to her. Tahirih was the only woman in the movement who became a disciple. Over the opposition of her father, she taught the faith publicly, claiming that the Bab was the fulfillment of the prophesies which pointed to the return of the Twelfth Imam. Using traditional rhyming forms, she wrote eloquent poems of love for God, as well as those deeply critical of the traditional clergy, whom she debated in public.
Persecution inevitably followed. In 1848, during a conference at Badasht which was to proclaim a New Day, and during which leaders advocated reforms, Tahirih was supposed to have proclaimed it as the day “on which the fetters of the past are burst asunder.” She also appeared in public without her veil, a provocative act seen by the clergy as defiling both God and themselves. Shortly after she was arrested. Imprisoned under house arrest, she continued to preach. In 1852, she was sentenced to death as a heretic. It was then she proclaimed her most famous cry: “You can kill me as soon as you like but you cannot stop the emancipation of women!” She was strangled to death shortly thereafter.
Tahirih’s life and poems have been retold throughout the years, most recently in public readings, a theatrical music drama, and a CD. In 1997 the Tahirih Justice Center was founded to address the acute need for legal service for immigrant and refugee women who have fled to the U.S. to seek protection from human rights abuses.