Martin Luther King was an American Baptist Pastor, defender of civil rights. Since 1955, the long struggle of black Americans to achieve full rights experienced an acceleration in whose leadership the young pastor Martin Luther King was soon to highlight.
Martin Luther King’s fame spread rapidly throughout the country and he soon assumed the leadership of the American peace movement, first through the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and later through the Congress of Racial Equality. Also, as a member of the Association for the Advancement of Colored People, he opened another front to achieve improvements in their living conditions.
In 1960, he used a spontaneous sit-in by black students in Birmingham, Alabama, to launch a nationwide campaign. On this occasion, Martin Luther King was imprisoned and later released through the intercession of John Fitgerald Kennedy, then a candidate for the presidency of the United States, but he achieved equal access for blacks to libraries, dining rooms and parking lots.
His nonviolent action, inspired by the example of Gandhi, mobilized a growing portion of the African-American community, culminating in the summer of 1963 in the historic march on Washington, which drew 250,000 protesters. There, at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King delivered the most famous and moving of his splendid speeches, known for the formula that led the vision of a just world: I have a dream
In March 1965, he led a demonstration of thousands of civil rights defenders that traveled almost a hundred kilometers, from Selma, where acts of racial violence had occurred, to Montgomery. Martin Luther King’s struggle had a tragic end: on April 4, 1968, he was assassinated in Memphis by James Earl Ray, a common white criminal. As his funeral was being held at Edenhaëser Church in Atlanta, a wave of violence swept across the country. Ray, arrested by the police, recognized himself as the perpetrator of the murder and was convicted on circumstantial evidence. Years later he retracted his statement and, with the support of the King family, requested the reopening of the case and the hearing of a new trial.
Despite the arrests and police or racist attacks, the movement for civil equality was uprooting judicial sentences and legislative decisions against racial segregation, and obtained the endorsement of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to King in 1964.