Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Ph.D. (1929-1968) was by far the most important black leader of the 1960s. Since his assassination in 1968, he has been the single most important exemplar of civil rights in America. King was the son of a Baptist minister and became a Baptist minister himself. King's life was filled with Jesus from his birth to his death. Everything he did to promote justice was never out of step with Christian beliefs.
Education and early career
King was educated at Boston University, where he earned his advanced degree in theology. His PhD dissertation, however, was largely plagiarized; historians believe the supervising committee did not realize that. King became the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.
Rathbun (1968) shows the theological basis for King as a social reformer derived from four sources: the Social Gospel of Walter Rauschenbusch, the Protestant Neo-Orthodoxy of Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich, Personalism taught at Boston University, and Gandhi's concept of nonviolent love. King's synthesis of these four sources supported his civil rights activities. Laws may be broken, said King, if they are unjust laws which do not conform to eternal, natural law. Jesus, said King, was a true revolutionary who brought peace as a "presence of justice" instead of an "absence of tension." The church also must be revolutionary to counteract evil and bring about social justice. King's theology of social action foresaw complete, unprejudiced equality based on natural rights and privileges.
He became an advocate against racial discrimination.
Rev. King wrote his most famous writing, “Letter From A Birmingham Jail” (1963), while imprisoned for demonstrating against segregated eating facilities.
|“||Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.||”|
King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Rev. King's most famous speech, delivered to a huge crowd gathered in Washington, D.C. in 1964, chanted the refrain "I Have a Dream" of an end to segregation and discrimination. It was a brilliant Christian sermon that drew upon verses and images in the Bible, ending in "Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!" The same year Rev. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Rev. King was assassinated by James Earl Ray on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.
On April 16, 1963, Rev. King wrote:
- "As the Apostle Paul carried the gospel of Jesus Christ ... so am I compelled to carry the gospel... I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers ...
- I stand in the middle of two opposing forces ... One is a force of complacency ... The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups ... the largest being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement.
- Nourished by frustration over racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America ...
- I have tried to stand between these two forces ... for there is the more excellent way of love ...
- One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage."
In his 1964 book, WHY WE CAN'T WAIT, Rev. King wrote:
- "Whenever this issue of compensatory or preferential treatment for the Negro is raised, some of our friends recoil in horror. The Negro should be granted equality, they agree, but he should ask for nothing more. On the surface, this appears reasonable, but it is not realistic. For it is obvious that if a man enters the starting line of a race three hundred years after another man, the first would have to perform some incredible feat in order to catch up."
His last major public speech became known as "I've Been to the Mountaintop" 
Nobel Peace Prize laureate
On December 10, 1964, in Oslo, Norway, Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize. His acceptance speech started saying:
I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment when twenty-two million Negroes of the United States of America are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice. I accept this award in behalf of a civil rights movement which is moving with determination and a majestic scorn for risk and danger to establish a reign of freedom and a rule of justice... I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him. 
Time and time again, liberals claim that MLK was a Democrat. Liberals point to the people he associated with or that he opposed Barry Goldwater as proof that MLK was a Democrat. There is considerable evidence that he was not a Democrat. Martin Luther King Sr. was a Republican, that would almost certainly make his son a Republican. Only after his son was arrested did King Sr. plead to President Kennedy for his safe release. It is noted at that point MLK Sr. switched parties to support Kennedy. This despite Kennedy voting against the 1957 Civil Rights Act and was opposed to the 1963 March on Washington by Dr. King. The March on Washington was organized by A. Phillip Randolph, who was a black Republican. In addition, Robert Kennedy had the FBI wiretap MLK Jr's phone in order to undermine King.  It was the Republicans that freed the slaves nearly one-hundred years earlier, that fact was not lost on his generation. Frances Rice, chairman of the National Black Republican Association said, [he] "absolutely was a Republican," and "We were all Republicans in those days. The Democrats were training fire hoses on us, siccing dogs on us."  In the 1960s, King would have witnessed the Democrat parties position on pro-segregation, against the Civil Rights Act. King was most likely aware of high profile Democrats such as Al Gore Sr. and Robert Byrd voting against repealing segregation. Southern Democrats rallied around Jim Crow laws and Black Codes which were targeted against King's message. Dixiecrats blocked the social and political progress of black Southerners for decades. Was King unaware? Doubtful. It was Republican President Eisenhower who would push for integrating all white schools. To think King was a witness to all the upheaval Democrats caused and then became a Democrat is quite a stretch.
On April 3, 1968, King attended a rally in Memphis, Tennessee to support of local black sanitation workers who were striking due to a wage imbalance with white colleagues. The following evening, he was standing on the balcony outside his room at the Lorraine Motel when a shot rang out. King was hit in the face and rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m. He was 39 years old.
News of King's death spread quickly and sparked riots in 100 U.S. cities. President Lyndon Johnson pleaded with Americans to refrain from violent demonstrations, saying "I ask every citizen to reject the blind violence that has taken Dr King." Presidential candidate Robert Kennedy was also vocal in pleading for peace.
King's assassin, a white ex-convict named James Earl Ray, successfully eluded police for two months. He fled to Canada, where he lived under the alias Ramon George Sneyd. He was arrested on June 8, 1968 and confessed to the crime, for which he received a sentence of 99 years in prison.
Although King is generally embraced by the American cultural establishment today, he and the authorities did not always have such a cordial relationship. In 1967, King called the United States "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today." The FBI, under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover, kept King under surveillance from 1961 until his death in 1968. The Bureau tapped his phones and bugged his hotel rooms. The FBI did not end its surveillance of King's wife, Coretta Scott King, until many years after her husband's death.
Because of this, and despite Ray's confession to the murder, both Jesse Jackson and King's son Dexter Scott King have both said there was a government conspiracy to murder the civil rights leader. Jackson wrote the foreword to Ray's autobiography Who Killed Martin Luther King Jr.? and in it, he wrote "I have always believed that the government was part of a conspiracy, either directly or indirectly, to assassinate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr."
On Oct. 16, 2011, a memorial to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — the first honoring an African-American in the area of the Mall — was dedicated in Washington. The memorial — a four-acre tract along the Tidal Basin that is dotted with elms and cherry trees and anchored by an imposing granite statue of Dr. King — is the product of more than two decades of work. It was conceived in 1983 by members of Dr. King’s fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, and authorized by Congress in 1996.
The monument to Dr. Martin Luther King is not only the first to a black man on the Mall and its adjoining parks, but also the first to honor a person who was not a president. His stone figure faces the Jefferson Memorial across the water. Lincoln is at his back, and Roosevelt to his right. 
The monument was built in China and the inscription on the monument will be replaced because it is inaccurate attribution to MLK Jr. In addition, MLK Jr's likeness, one of folded arms in resistance, does not accurately portray the man.
- "We know from painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor. It must be demanded by the oppressed." 
- "Judge people by the content of their character not the color of their skin."
- "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."
- "I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.
- "It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important."
- "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."
- "When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative."
- "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
- "I submit to you that if a man hasn't discovered something he will die for, he isn't fit to live."
- "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."
- "Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured."
- "A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan."
- John W. Rathbun, "Martin Luther King: The Theology of Social Action." American Quarterly 1968 20(1): 38-53. in JSTOR
- For example, the speech recited Isaiah 40:4-5.
- Why Martin Luther King Was Republican, Human Events, August 16, 2006
- Controversial Ad Links MLK, GOP, Washington Post, October 19, 2006
- [http://books.google.com/books?id=5wrCR_9VWowC&pg=PA346&dq=Freedom+is+never+voluntarily+given+by+the+oppressor%3B+it+must+be+demanded+by+the+oppressed&ei=_NxUSv-XJ6S4yQTg3ZGyBw God's new Israel: religious interpretations of American destiny - Page 346] by Conrad Cherry