Skip Navigation

Close and don't show again.

Your browser is out of date.

You may not get the full experience here on National Journal.

Please upgrade your browser to any of the following supported browsers:

Martin Luther King Jr.: Timeline Martin Luther King Jr.: Timeline

This ad will end in seconds
Close X

Want access to this content? Learn More »

Forget Your Password?

Don't have an account? Register »

Reveal Navigation


Civil Rights

Martin Luther King Jr.: Timeline


(/AFP/Getty Images)

The legend of Martin Luther King, Jr. is often bigger than life. His actions and words sparked a movement and a rhetoric for discussing civil rights that would extend far beyond his short lifetime. Below, we chronicle the events of that life, which is due to be commemorated on the National Mall on August 28.

1929 -- King is born in Atlanta, Ga. His father, Martin Luther King, was a Baptist minister.


1944 -- King graduates high school at age 15.

1948 -- King graduates from Morehouse College with a B.A. in sociology at age 19.

1953 -- King marries Coretta Scott, a student at New England Music Conservatory, while enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Boston University.


1954 -- King becomes minister of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.

1955 -- King leads a boycott against bus segregation in Montgomery, where Rosa Parks had refused to give up her bus seat for a white man.

1956 -- King’s house is bombed. Stemming from the Montgomery bus boycott, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that segregation in public transportation is unconstitutional.

1957 -- King helps found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and is elected SCLC's president.


1960 -- King joins his father as co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

1963 -- King writes “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” after being arrested for anti-segregation protests. Delivers the famous “I Have a Dream” speech from the National Mall during the March on Washington.

1964 -- Congress passes the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and King receives the Nobel Peace Prize.

1965 -- Police meet King and members of the SCLC with tear gas and brutal beatings on a march from Selma to Montgomery to demand equal voting rights for African-Americans. Congress passes the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to suspend literacy tests and other restrictions.

1966 -- King turns his attention toward opposing the Vietnam War and civil-rights struggles for employment and equal-housing opportunities in the North. Opens SCLC office in Chicago.

1967 -- King plans “Poor People’s Campaign” to advocate for the redistribution of wealth. Black-power movement gains popularity among youth as King’s influence declines.

1968 -- King is assassinated in Memphis, where he sought to support black garbage collectors who were on strike. Coretta Scott King founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. Reps. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Shirley Chisolm, D-N.Y., introduce legislation to establish a commemorative holiday honoring King.

1983 -- Congress passes legislation, which had been introduced by Conyers in each Congress since 1968, to commemorate King's birth. President Reagan signs the bill, which makes King's birthday a federal holiday.

1986 -- King's birthday is celebrated as a federal holiday for the first time.

1992 -- Arizona voters, facing a threatened tourist boycott, approve the state's observance of the holiday.

1996 -- President Clinton signs legislation proposing the establishment of a memorial to honor King.

1998 -- The House of Representatives and the Senate pass resolutions to designate the area where the King memorial is to be built.

1999 -- New Hampshire changes the name of the state's Civil Rights Day to Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

1999 -- The National Capital Planning Commission approves a four-acre site adjacent to the Tidal Basin for the building site. 

2000 -- An entry submitted by the ROMA Design Group in San Francisco is selected as the winning design for the memorial.

2005 -- The planning comission approves the preliminary design for the memorial.

2009 -- Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signs a permit allowing construction of the memorial; construction begins.

2011 -- The MLK Memorial Foundation announces the memorial will be dedicated on August 28.

(Sources: National Archives, Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Corporation for National and Community Service)


comments powered by Disqus