Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Who was Dr. King?

2004 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King Bronze Medal Obverse
2004 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King Bronze Medal Obverse

Martin Luther King, Jr. (born in 1929) was a leader in American civil rights for 13 years. Through nonviolent protest, he helped to promote racial equality in the United States from December 1955 until his assassination on April 4, 1968.

Later in 1968, Dr. King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, founded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. Mrs. King dedicated the center as a living memorial to continue Dr. King’s work of addressing social ills around the world.

In 2004, the United States Mint issued a Congressional Gold Medal to recognize Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King as the first family of the civil rights movement.

Dr. King’s Accomplishments

Dr. King’s accomplishments and his teachings, which drew on the Bible and the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, are studied by scholars and students internationally. Public facilities around the world bear his name, showing his profound impact.

In addition:

  • He was awarded five honorary degrees.
  • In 1963, he was named Man of the Year by Time magazine.
  • In 1964, he was the youngest man ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (at age 35).
  • In 1977 (after his death), he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  • In 2011, he became the subject of a permanent memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C.

Martin Luther King Day

In 1983, Dr. King’s birthday became a national holiday. Though his birthday actually falls on January 15, Congress designated the third Monday in January to honor Dr. King. It is considered a day of service. People often do community service or work together in citizen action groups to address social needs.

Lesson Plan

Learn about civil rights with our “Champion a Cause” lesson plan for grades 4-6.

  • Students will describe the role of Frederick Douglass as an advocate for equality and justice for all people.
  • Students will identify causes Frederick Douglass believed in.
  • Students will define and discuss being involved in a cause and share causes they personally believe in.
  • Students will write a presentation about a cause they believe in and advocate for their cause to the class.
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