Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods following the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. King has become a national icon in the history of modern American liberalism.

King became a civil rights activist early in his career. In 1954, King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. He was, by this time, a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the leading organization of its kind in the nation. He led the first great Negro nonviolent demonstration of contemporary times in the United States, the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott. The boycott lasted 382 days. On December 21, 1956, after the Supreme Court of the United States had declared unconstitutional the laws requiring segregation on buses, Negroes and whites rode the buses as equals. During these days of boycott, King was arrested, his home was bombed, and he was subjected to personal abuse, but he emerged as a Negro leader of the first rank.

In 1957, he was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization formed to provide new leadership for the now burgeoning civil rights movement. The ideals for this organization he took from Christianity; its operational techniques from Gandhi. In the eleven-year period between 1957 and 1968, King traveled over six million miles and spoke over twenty-five hundred times, appearing wherever there was injustice, protest, and action; and meanwhile he wrote five books as well as numerous articles. In these years, he led a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama, that caught the attention of the entire world, providing what he called a coalition of conscience, which inspired his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", a manifesto of the Negro revolution. He planned the drives in Alabama for the registration of Negroes as voters and he directed the peaceful march on Washington, D.C., of 250,000 people to whom he delivered his address, "l Have a Dream".

In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and racial discrimination through civil disobedience and other nonviolent means. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.

King was arrested upwards of twenty times and assaulted at least four times; he was awarded five honorary degrees; was named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1963; and became not only the symbolic leader of American blacks but also a world figure.

King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.

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Bio Source: Nobelprize.org

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