Martin Luther King Jr. and the Struggle to March Forward

A Virtual Exploration of the Civil Rights Movement


Dr. and Mrs. Martin Luther King Jr.Georgia Public Broadcasting

Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta in 1929. He earned his doctorate from Boston University where he met his future wife. Coretta Scott was born in Alabama in 1927 and studied music at the New England Conservatory of Music.

Shortly after the Kings moved back to the South in 1955, Dr. King became the pastor of Dexter Baptist Church and began supporting the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

The Life and Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. (2017) by Georgia Public BroadcastingGeorgia Public Broadcasting

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.Georgia Public Broadcasting

Two years after the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was established to unite civic, religious, and protest groups with Dr. King as its president.

Having learned from the Albany Movement's lack of strategy and inability to force confrontation, King and the SCLC were more successful in their 1963 campaign to integrate Birmingham, Alabama.

Here, King promotes his book "Why We Can't Wait" that was based on his famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail."

March on Washington (Program) (1963)National Women’s History Museum

Almost Last, But Certainly Not Least

In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s star rose considerably. The success of the Birmingham campaign early in the year led to his inclusion as a speaker at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Including fellow activists like John Lewis, Mrs. Medger Evers, and A. Philip Randolph, as well as celebrities and artists like Paul Newman, Harry Belafonte, Jackie Robinson, and Sammy Davis Jr., the gathering brought over 200,000 attendees to the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Savannah Freedom Now Movement at the March on WashingtonGeorgia Public Broadcasting

Activists from around the country came to support the goals of the March on Washington, including the SCLC-affiliated Savannah Freedom Now Movement.

Dr. King Speaking at the March on WashingtonGeorgia Public Broadcasting

I Have a Dream

Dr. King delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Washington Memorial, propelling him to the forefront of the national Civil Rights Movement.

He extolled the "promissory note" of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence "that all men — yes black men as well as white men — would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." It was on that promise that King said, "we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check."

Dr. King and Malcolm X at a Press ConferenceGeorgia Public Broadcasting

Although the most prominent figure in the civil rights movement, Dr. King was not the only voice for African-American rights. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. met only this once in 1964.

Their beliefs about the right approach to combating injustice differed greatly, with Dr. King advocating nonviolence and Malcolm X encouraging a more militant approach.

What Did the Civil Rights Movement Achieve?Georgia Public Broadcasting

Act Enforcing the Constitutional Right to VoteGeorgia Public Broadcasting

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, or gender in a variety of settings, including public facilities and work environments.

It also granted the United States Attorney General permission to bring suits against entities that violated Constitutional protections in education and other public spaces.

Act Enforcing the 15th Amendment to the ConstitutionGeorgia Public Broadcasting

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was enacted the following year to dismantle practices that prevented African Americans from voting. These disenfranchisement efforts included literacy tests and the grandfather clause.

President Lyndon B. Johnson speaks to the nation before signing the Civil Rights ActGeorgia Public Broadcasting

Its Purpose is Not to Divide, But to End Divisions

In the East Room of the White House, President Lyndon B. Johnson spoke to the nation upon signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Congressional and civil rights leaders in attendance included Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Senator (and future Vice President) Hubert Humphrey, Martin Luther King Jr., and A. Philip Randolph. 

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