Martin Luther King Jr. was born on Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta, in his family's house at 501 Auburn Avenue N.E. The son of a Baptist minister, King was raised in the segregated South. He chose to follow in his father's footsteps. He was a young and relatively unknown pastor at a Baptist church in Montgomery, Ala., when he was thrust into a much more central role.
King is welcomed with a kiss by his wife Coretta Scott King after leaving court in Montgomery, Ala., March 22, 1956. He was found guilty of conspiracy to boycott city buses. The boycott was part of a campaign to desegregate the city's bus system. A judge suspended his $500 fine pending appeal. King and 92 others were tried for violating the anti-boycott law. During the bus boycott, King's house was bombed. No one was injured in the bombing.
In December 1956, Montgomery's buses were desegregated when the Supreme Court declared Alabama's segregation laws unconstitutional. The success of the boycott made King a national hero, and it sparked the use of nonviolent confrontation that became the hallmark of the civil rights movement. King, then 26, then became pastor at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., where he told his followers to "stand up for truth."
King and Rev. Ralph Abernathy, left, led a column of several hundred demonstrators in an attempt to march on the Birmingham, Ala., city hall on April 12, 1963. Police intercepted the group. Pictures of police attacking unarmed demonstrators with attack dogs and fire hoses generated sympathy all over the world. King deeply believed in Mahatma Gandhi's protest with nonviolence for social change.
Martin Luther King Jr., Fred Shuttlesworth and Ralph Abernathy, three major figures in the Civil Rights movement, confer in Birmingham, Ala., on May 10, 1963, just before releasing a statement that an accord had been reached on their grievances over racial injustices in the Alabama steel city.
President Kennedy meets at the White House with leaders of the March on Washington, Aug. 28, 1963. From left, Whitney Young, National Urban League; King; John Lewis, Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee; Rabbi Joachim Prinz, American Jewish Congress; Dr. Eugene P. Donnaly, National Council of Churches; A. Philip Randolph, AFL-CIO; Kennedy; Walter Reuther, United Auto Workers; Vice President Lyndon Johnson, rear; and Roy Wilkins, NAACP.
King acknowledges a crowd of 250,000 at the Lincoln Memorial for his "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington, Aug. 28, 1963. The march was organized to support proposed civil rights legislation and end segregation. King, who founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, advocated nonviolent action as a way to end racial discrimination.
King and Malcolm X shake hands after King announced plans for direct action protests if Southern senators filibustered against the 1964 Civil Rights Bill on March 26, 1964. Malcolm X also threatened another march on Washington if a filibuster against the bill dragged on.
King looks at a bullet hole in the glass door of his rented beach cottage in St. Augustine, Fla., June 5, 1964. The bullet came from an unknown shooter. King took time out from conferring with St. Augustine integration leaders to inspect the house, which was empty at the time of the shooting. King was a constant target of violence by segregationists.
U.S. President Lyndon Johnson passes out some of the 72 pens he used to sign the Civil Rights Bill in Washington on July 2, 1964. From left, standing are, Rep. Roland Libobati (D-Ill.), Rep. Peter Rodino (D-N.J.), Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rep. Emmanuel Celler (D-N.Y.) and Whitney Young, executive director of the National Urban League. The relationship between the president and King worsened during the escalation of the Vietnam War.
In Oslo, Norway, King holds a case containing the Nobel Peace Prize gold medal, Dec. 10, 1964. To his right is Gunnar Jahn, chairman of the Norwegian Parliament's Nobel Committee. King was honored for promoting the principle of non-violence in the pursuit of civil rights. King, then 35 and the youngest man to receive the prize, was the 12th American and the third black person to be given the award.
In March, 1965, King led marchers across the Edmund Pettus bridge into Selma, Ala., for a 50-mile march to the State Capitol in Montgomery. Thousands of civil rights marchers participated, demanding voter rights.
King, who served as co-pastor with his father, Martin Luther King Sr., at the Ebenezer Baptist Chuch in Atlanta, Ga., speaks in Eutaw, Ala., in June 1965. Despite his reputation as a fiery orator, King began to face strong challenges to his leadership. In 1966, King encountered strong criticism from "black power" proponent Stokely Carmichael.
In front of the United Nations in New York City, King spoke at a peace rally before a crowd of 125,000 Vietnam War protesters on April 15, 1967. He voiced a repeated demand to "Stop the bombing." During sermons at his in Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta he urged America to repent and abandon what he called its "tragic, reckless adventure in Vietnam."
At a press conference in Atlanta on April 25, 1967, King announced that he would not run for president. He also predicted that black and white students would go to jail rather than fight in the Vietnam War. King later accompanied boxing heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali to court in a suit to prevent the boxer's Army induction in Houston. The civil rights leader said later, "the sooner this country does away with the draft, the better off we'll be."
King showed off his book "Why We Can't Wait" in Atlanta, Ga., March 4, 1968. He used the book during his campaign against poverty in the spring and summer of 1968.
King stands with other civil rights leaders on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., on April 3, 1968, a day before he was assassinated at approximately the same spot. From left: Hosea Williams, Jesse Jackson, King and Ralph Abernathy.
King makes his last public appearance at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tenn., on April 3, 1968, delivering his speech during a bitter sanitation workers' strike. The following evening he would be assassinated.
Coretta Scott King and her daughter, Bernice, attended the funeral of her husband, Martin Luther King Jr., in Atlanta. At the age of 39, King became an enduring martyr in the long struggle for freedom and justice.
A single flower rests on the base of King's tomb in Atlanta on Jan. 17, 1998. The epitaph is the chorus of an old slave hymn often quoted by King during his emotional speeches. In 1986, King's birthday, Jan. 15, became a federal holiday.