Martin Luther King Jr.

Internationally acclaimed spokesman of the Civil Rights movement Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 4, 1968. King was in Memphis in an attempt to raise awareness of and support for a strike of Memphis sanitation workers, most of whom were poorly paid African Americans. The night before his assassination, King delivered his emotional "I've Been to the Mountaintop" sermon at the Mason Temple of the Church of God in Christ in Memphis.

A native of Atlanta, Georgia, who first gained prominence in the Civil Rights movement while a Baptist minister in Montgomery, Alabama, King was considered by both whites and blacks as the pivotal figure for civil rights at the time of his murder. He promoted and gave the primary speech at the March on Washington in 1963 and received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964. The U.S. Congress established a national holiday to honor King--the first African American so honored--beginning in 1986.

King attended sessions at the Highlander Folk School near Monteagle, and many streets and institutions across Tennessee are named in his honor, including the Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Nashville and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Chattanooga. The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis was built out of the Lorraine Motel, and King's room there has been preserved as part of the museum's exhibits.

Published » December 25, 2009 | Last Updated » January 01, 2010