Martin Luther King Jr. Facts and Quotes for Kids

Martin Luther King Facts and Quotes for Kids

Martin Luther King Jr. was among the most influential and important figures in U.S. history. He was a civil rights leader, was jailed 29 times for his fight against racism, won the Nobel Peace Prize, and was an inspiration to many.  

Martin Luther King believed that all people should be created equal regardless of the color of their skin.  He was a minister and was an important leader and activist in the Civil Rights Movement. 

Find out more with these Martin Luther King Facts and Quotes for kids below:

Martin Luther King Jr. Facts and Quotes for Kids

Who was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?

He was born Michael King Jr. on January 15th, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. His father, Michael King, was a pastor of Ebenezer Baptist church. His mother was Alberta Christine Williams King. 

She attended Hampton Normal and Industrial Institute, today known as Hampton University, and earned a teaching certificate.   Alberta Christine Williams King’s father, Reverend Adam Daniel Williams, was a preacher at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Michael King Jr. was the middle child.  His older sister’s name was Christine, and his younger brother’s name was Alfred Daniel.

In 1934, Michael King and Michael King Jr. changed their names to Martin Luther after German Protestant leader Martin Luther.

Education

Martin Luther King Jr. was a very smart little boy.  His mother was a teacher and taught him how to read before he entered school.  He tried attending school at the age of five but was told to come back at the age of six.

King attended David T Howard Elementary School and then Booker T. Washington High School. He skipped the 9th and 12th grades and entered college at the age of 15. 

King first attended Morehouse College, located in Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology.

He later attended Crozer Theological Seminary, which is located in Chester, Pennsylvania.  At Crozer, he received a degree in Divinity (religious studies).

In 1951, King went to  Boston University.  In 1955, he graduated from Boston University with a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology and earned the title of Dr.

Family

Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott met each other while attending school in Boston.  They started dating in 1952 and got married in 1953.

Martin and Coretta Scott King had four children: Yolanda, Martin Luther King III, Dexter, and Bernice. Dexter became a pastor at Dexter Ave Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.

How Did Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. help the Civil Rights Movement?

Martin Luther King Jr. wanted everyone to be created equal.  He felt it was wrong to be judged by your skin color.

Before the Civil Rights movement, African Americans were not treated equally to white people.  They were not allowed to use the same public restrooms, the same entrance/exits at places such as the movie theater, the same swimming pools, or sit in the same part of a restaurant that white people were sitting in.

King felt that it was wrong to judge people by the color of their skin. He believed people should be judged on their character and not their appearance.

He felt that something had to change in this country, and everyone needed to be treated equally.

Civil Rights Activist

Martin Luther King Jr. did many things to help people. He was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Martin Luther King Jr., along with other civil rights activists, will go on to lead many non-violent protests for civil rights around the country.

In 1955, he took leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, where Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving up her seat and moving to the back of the bus for a white man.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted a year, and on November 13th, 1956, the Supreme Court declared segregation on buses was unconstitutional.

Non Violent Protests

In 1957, along with other civil rights activists, King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to organize and conduct non-violent protests for civil rights.

In February 1959, Martin Luther King Jr. traveled to India to study Mahatma Gandhi’s principles of non-violence.

Gandhi’s principles of peaceful resistance had a lasting impression on Martin Luther King Jr.; he used them in his fight against racial discrimination.

On June 23rd, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. led a Freedom Walk in Detroit, Michigan; 125,000 people participated.

On August 28th, 1963, at a historic march in Washington DC for jobs, freedom, racial equality, and the end of discrimination, Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is one of the most well-known speeches in the history of the United States.

One of the many famous quotes from the speech is, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

King played an essential role in signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made segregating schools, the workplace, and public places based on race illegal. It also made it illegal to discriminate against people due to their race, sex, religion, or national origin.

On October 14th, 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. became the youngest man (age 35) to receive a Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through non-violence.

Voters rights

In 1965, King led marches in Selma, Alabama, to expose the voting rights issues for African Americans. At that time, Alabama was known to use violence to keep African Americans from voting.

Not long after the marches, President Lyndon Johnson passed the Voting Rights Bill of 1965, which made it illegal to discriminate against people who wanted to vote. This made it easier for African Americans to vote.

On November 27, 1967, Martin Luther King announced the Poor People Campaign, focusing on jobs and freedom for the poor of all races.

Martin Luther King Jr. also protested against the Vietnam War.

Martin Luther King Jr. was very passionate about his beliefs about equal rights for everyone.  He was arrested many times during his peaceful protests for civil rights.

Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by James Earl Ray on April 4th, 1968, on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He was only 39 years old.   He was in Tennessee to lead a peaceful march to support local sanitation workers.

James Earl Ray was sentenced to jail for 99 years for the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.

When Did MLK Day become a Holiday?

On November 2nd, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill to declare Martin Luther King Jr. Day in remembrance of the civil rights activist and of all the great things he did to fight for civil rights.

He was the first African American to be granted a national holiday. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated on the third Monday in January. The day is celebrated in January in honor of his birthday. It was first celebrated on January 20th, 1986.

It wasn’t until the year 2000 that all 50 states recognized Martin Luther King Day as a paid holiday. Schools, government offices, courts, and banks are all closed on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Many businesses are also closed.

Utah was the last state to declare Martin Luther King Jr. Day a holiday

Over 1,000 streets are named after Martin Luther King Jr.

Family Tragedy

Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4th, 1968. One year later, on July 21st, 1969, Martin Luther King Jr’s brother Alfred Daniel Williams died by accidental drowning in a pool.   

Alberta Christine Williams King (Martin Luther King Jr.’s mom) was murdered at the Ebenezer Baptist church just six years after the assassination of her son.  Mrs. King was shot and killed during morning service while she was playing the organ.

This was the church she grew up attending.  She was murdered on June 30th, 1974, by a 23-year-old named Marcus Wayne Chenault.

He went to the church to kill people because he felt that Christians were his enemy. Marcuse Wayne Chenault later said that he was going to shoot Martin Luther King Sr.; however, Mrs. King was closer.

Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes

“If you can’t fly, then run; if you can’t run, then walk; if you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, keep moving forward.”

“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right – especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the ones we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.”

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education.”

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a constant attitude.”

“A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.”

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

“The quality, not the longevity of one’s life is what is important.”

“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”

Inspirational Quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“We must use time creatively.”

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”

“Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.”

“A riot is the language of the unheard.”

“We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.”

“A lie cannot live.”

“Whenever men and women straighten their backs up they are going somewhere because a man can’t ride your back unless it is bent.”

“Courage faces fear and thereby masters it.”

“If we do an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, we will be a blind and toothless nation.”

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

“No person has the right to rain on your dreams.”

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

“Free at last, Free at last, thank god almighty we are free at last.”

Vocabulary

Assassinate (past tense assassinated): to murder a political or religious figure.

Civil Rights Movement: A mass protest that took place in the late 1950s through the 1960s, African Americans fought to end discrimination and receive the same equal rights and have access to the same opportunities as white citizens.

Gandhi: Mahatma Gandhi or Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a spiritual and political activist who lead the national movement against British rule in India.

Ph.D.:  Doctor of Philosophy or doctoral degree.  A doctoral degree is earned after 8 years of college. 2 years of college is an associates degree, 4 years is a bachelor’s degree, 6 years is a Master’s Degree, 8 years is a Doctoral Degree or Ph.D

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