The Dream Lives On: The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

His powerful words continue to inspire civil rights activists worldwide more than 50 years after his death.

Buffy Naylor, Senior Managing Editor

January 17, 2022

12 Slides

On Monday, Jan. 17, the nation will observe Martin Luther King Jr. day. He was actually born Jan. 15, the grandson and son of Baptist ministers. His grandfather and father each in turn served as pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

King followed them into the ministry, eventually becoming co-pastor with his father. But first, he graduated from his grandfather’s and father’s alma mater, Morehouse College, then received his bachelor of divinity degree from Crozier Theological Seminary in Upland, Pennsylvania. Finally, he earned his Ph.D. in systematic theology from Boston College.

By the time he became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, King was already active in the struggle for civil rights. A member of the NAACP’s executive committee, he readily took on the task of leading the Montgomery bus boycott against segregated seating. The boycott began four days after the arrest of Rosa Parks and lasted more than a year. During that time, King was arrested and his home was firebombed. In the end, the Supreme Court declared segregated seating unlawful and King had become a recognized force in the civil rights movement.

The following year, King and other activists founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to coordinate and support organizations working for the civil rights of Black Americans. Over the next 11 years, he traveled more than 6 million miles, made more than 2,500 speeches and wrote five books and myriad articles. He led numerous marches and protests, conferred with President John F. Kennedy and campaigned for President Lyndon B. Johnson. He was physically assaulted on numerous occasions and arrested more than 20 times. He was also awarded five honorary degrees, named Time magazine’s Man of the Year and became the youngest man to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nonviolent Warrior

While King modeled his approach to civil rights activism on the nonviolent techniques of Ghandi, he was unmistakably a warrior. His strong and unwavering dedication to civil rights served as an example to other activists. His incredible talent for both writing and speaking spread his influence even further. And his words continue to inspire, nearly 54 years after his death. Many of his most famous quotes are inscribed on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in downtown Washington, D.C.

Scroll through the gallery above to learn more about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and some of his most memorable observations.


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About the Author(s)

Buffy Naylor

Senior Managing Editor, Channel Futures

Buffy Naylor is senior managing editor of Channel Futures. Prior to joining Informa (then VIRGO) in 2008, she was an award-winning copywriter and editor, then senior manager of corporate communications for an international leisure travel corporation and, before that, in charge of creative development and copywriting for a boutique marketing and public relations agency.

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