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The birthday of a legend – Martin Luther King Jr was born today!4 min read

January 15, 2021 3 min read


The birthday of a legend – Martin Luther King Jr was born today!4 min read

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Rewind with Owliver

Today marks a special day in history – it is the birthday of someone very important in the history of the United States of America. Martin Luther King Jr was born on January 15, 1929, and if you haven’t heard of him till date, Owliver will take you through his life and works in this week’s Rewind with Owliver.

January 15 is Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday!
A snapshot during a march to end discrimination towards African Americans in Washington

King was a civil rights activist in the 1950s and 1960s. Civil rights are an essential component of democracy. These rights guarantee equal social opportunities and protection under the law, regardless of race, religion, or other characteristics. In the US, a civil rights movement took place, wherein African Americans fought to gain equal rights under the law. King was a major figure in the struggle.

Let’s go back in time….

A glorious life

King was born in Atlanta, and was no ordinary child. He was super smart, so he skipped a few grades and went to college at the young age of 15! He studied sociology, then divinity and then did his doctorate in theology. In 1953, he got married, and had four kids.

King’s children visit their parents’ graves

So when did his activism start? In one of his first major actions in the civil rights movement, he led the ‘Montgomery Bus Boycott’. An African American woman was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a bus. As a result, King organised a boycott of the public transport system in Montgomery, which lasted over a year – 383 days to be precise! During this very tense time in American history, King was arrested and his home was bombed too!

Owliver’s Obscure Facts

In October 1964, Martin won the Nobel Peace Prize! He was told over the phone while he was in bed suffering from exhaustion.

The Southern United States operated under the ‘Jim Crow laws’ that kept people of colour and white people separated in what was called ‘segregation’. African American people had different schools, toilets and even sections of the bus. They were also denied the right to vote in elections. In the end, however, King was successful and segregation on buses was put to an end.

“I have a dream”

If you’ve heard of King, or are even familiar with some of the greatest speeches ever made, you’d have definitely come across the famous ‘I have a dream’ speech. In 1963, King helped organise the March on Washington, which was attended by over 250,000 people. It was during this march that King delivered his iconic speech. The march itself was a great success in ending segregation, police abuse and discrimination, and a year later, the Civil Rights Act was passed.

Listen to the famous speech here.

A tragic end

Former US President Barack Obama at the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial in Washington DC

Unfortunately, King was assassinated in 1968 in Tennessee, where he had given a speech the day before. He was standing in the balcony his hotel when he was shot. James Earl Ray was convicted of his murder and spent the rest of his life in prison.

Owliver’s Obscure Facts

King was a great believer in peaceful protests, inspired by none other than Mahatma Gandhi. His protests used no-violent tactics, even when the protesters themselves were met with violence from the police.

Sources: Ducksters.com, National Geographic

Photos: Britannica, AP, Obama White House Archives