Black-and-white photograph of Martin Luther King Jr. with his right hand lifted

Martin Luther King Jr.

(1929 - 1968)

One year after assuming the pastorship of a Baptist church in Montgomery, Alabama, Martin Luther King Jr. was selected by the city’s black leaders in 1955 to head up the protest of Rosa Parks’ arrest. He became the founding president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, emerging as the era’s most prominent civil rights activist; for leading an antisegregation march in 1963, he was imprisoned in a Birmingham jail. King was assassinated at the age of thirty-nine in 1968.

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It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me.

—Martin Luther King Jr., 1962

If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper that did his job well.

—Martin Luther King Jr., 1954

I want to be the white man’s brother, not his brother-in-law.

—Martin Luther King Jr., 1962

A riot is at bottom the language of the unheard.

—Martin Luther King Jr., c. 1967

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