By Sister Tarpley
NDG Religion Editor
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s messages had an enormous effect on race relations in the United States, beginning in the mid-1950s.
Through his activism and inspirational speeches he played a pivotal role in ending the legal segregation of Black citizens in the United States.
Dr. King helped in the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In his short lifetime Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, among several other coveted honors.
He continues to be remembered as one of the most influential and inspirational Black leaders in the history of the world.
Born as Michael King Jr. he was the middle child of Michael King Sr. and Alberta Williams King.
Reverend King Sr. was a successful minister, and adopted the name Martin Luther King Sr. in honor of the German Protestant religious leader Martin Luther.
In due time, Michael Jr. would follow his father’s lead and adopt the name himself.
Growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. King entered public school at age 5 and attended Booker T. Washington High School.
Dr. King skipped both the ninth and eleventh grades, and entered Morehouse College in Atlanta at age 15, in 1944.
In his junior year, Martin took a Bible class, renewed his faith and began to envision a career in the ministry. In the fall of his senior year, he told his father of his decision.
In 1948, Martin Luther King Jr. earned a sociology degree from Morehouse College and attended the liberal Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania.
He thrived in all his studies, and was valedictorian of his class in 1951, and elected student body president. He also earned a fellowship for graduate study.
During his last year in seminary, Dr. King came under the guidance of Morehouse College President Benjamin E. Mays who influenced King’s spiritual development.
After being accepted at several colleges for his doctoral study, including Yale and Edinburgh in Scotland, King enrolled at Boston University.
During the work on his doctorate, Dr. King met Coretta Scott, an aspiring singer and musician.
They were married in June 1953 and had four children, Yolanda, Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott and Bernice.
In 1954, King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church of Montgomery, Alabama.
He also completed his Ph.D. and earned his degree in 1955 when Dr. King was only 25 years old.