Martin Luther King Timeline 1929-1968

Martin Luther King

Born – 15th January 1929
Died – 4th April 1968 – assassinated
Father – Rev Michael King (1899 – 1984)
Mother – Alberta Williams (1904 – 1974)
Spouse – m. 1953 – Coretta Scott (1927 – 2006)
Children – Yolanda (1955 – 2007), Martin (b. 1957), Dexter (b. 1961), Bernice (b. 1963)
Known to History – United States Civil Rights Leader


1929 (15th January)
Martin Luther King was born Michael King Jr to Reverend Michael King and his wife Alberta in Atlanta, Georgia. He was the couple’s second child, his elder sister Christine had been born in 1927.
1930 (30th July)
King’s brother, Alfred Daniel Williams King was born.
1934 (August)
King’s father was sent on a global trip that ended in Germany where he visited sites associated with the Protestant Reformation and Martin Luther. When he returned home he began using the name Martin Luther King Sr. He referred to his son as Martin Luther King Jr.
1935 (September)
The reality of segregation first affected Martin Luther King when he and his white friend had to go to separate schools and were no longer allowed to play together.
1940 (September)
King attended Booker T Washington High School in Atlanta.
1944 (17th April)
Martin Luther King won a speaking contest with his speech ‘The Negro and the Constitution’.
1944 (September)
King began attending Morehouse College after passing the entrance examination.
1947 (summer)
Martin Luther King decided that he wanted to be a Baptist minister.
1948 (25th February)
King was ordained as a Baptist minister.
1948 (8th June)
Martin Luther King graduated from Morehouse college with a degree in sociology.
1948 (14th September)
King attended Crozer Theological Seminary, Chester, Pennsylvania.
1951 (during)
Martin Luther King had a romantic relationship with a white girl and wanted to marry her. He was persuaded to give her up as it would damage his chances of gaining a ministry.
1951 (8th May)
King gained his degree in Divinity from Crozer Theological Seminary, Chester, Pennsylvania.
1951 (13th September)
King began studying Theology at graduate level at Boston University. He hoped to find a suitable girl to marry.
1952 (early)
Coretta Scott agreed to meet King after a mutual friend thought they would be a good match. Afterwards the two met regularly.
1952 (August)
King took Coretta to meet his parents.
1953 (14th February)
The engagement of Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott was officially announced.
1953 (18th June)
Martin Luther King Jr married Coretta Scott. Martin Luther King Sr officiated at the ceremony.
1954 (17th May)
Chief Justice, Earl Warren, speaking on the case of Brown v Board of Education, stated that segregated schools were unequal and against the 14th Amendment.
1954 (31st October)
King was made pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.
1955 (March)
Fifteen year old black schoolgirl Claudette Colvin refused to give up her bus seat to a white woman and was arrested. Her case was not taken up by Montgomery black leaders due to the fact that she was an unmarried minor and pregnant.
1955 (May)
Despite the court ruling in Brown v Board of Education that all state schools should move to integration, many schools defied the ruling.
1955 (5th June)
King gained his Ph.D in theology from Boston University.
1955 (26th August)
King became a member of the executive committee of the Montgomery National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP).
1955 (17th November)
A daughter, Yolanda Denise, was born to Martin Luther and Coretta King.
1955 (1st December)
Rosa Parks, secretary for the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. She was arrested.
1955 (2nd December)
E D Nixon, president of the Montgomery NAACP decided to use Parks’ arrest as a test case to challenge segregation on the buses. Martin Luther King was chosen to lead the boycott. Despite his reluctance to take up the challenge, King was persuaded to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It was agreed that all blacks would boycott the buses from Monday 5th December.
1955 (5th December)
After a mass meeting at Martin Luther King’s church it was decided that the boycott would go ahead. Black taxi drivers carried black passengers for the price of a bus ticket while others shared cars.
1955 (5th December)
Rosa Parks was found guilty of failing to obey the bus driver’s request and fined $14.
1955 (7th December)
J Edgar Hoover, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began trying to find ‘derogatory information’ to use to discredit King.
1955 (8th December)
Montgomery officials issued an order that any taxi drivers charging less than 45 cents would be fined.
1956 (26th January)
King was arrested and put in jail for leading the continuing boycott of the city buses.
1956 (30th January)
Martin Luther King’s house was firebombed. Although his wife and daughter were at home at the time they were not hurt.
1956 (5th June)
The case of Browder v Gayle, which challenged the bus segregation laws, decided that bus segregation was unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment. The Montgomery city council immediately appealed the decision.
1956 (13th November)
The appeal against the decision in Browder v Gayle was held. The city lost and the original decision was upheld.
1956 (late)
Because of his role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Martin Luther King was a well known figure and thought of as a leader of the Civil Rights Movement.
1957 (10th January)
Martin Luther King, Ralph Abernathy, Joseph Lowery and Fred Shuttlesworth founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The aim of the group was to organise peaceful protest against segregation and in favour of civil rights reform.
1957 (14th February)
King was made President of the SCLC.
1957 (17th May)
The SCLC supported the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom. This was a peaceful demonstration at the Lincoln Memorial held on the third anniversary of the ruling in the Brown v Board of Education which made school segregation illegal. King was invited to speak and delivered his ‘Give Us the Ballot’ speech.
1957 (9th September)
President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act 1957 into law. The Act made it illegal for anyone to be prevented from voting. It was intended to outlaw the Jim Crow Laws that allowed state and local laws to impose discriminitary sanctions on black Americans but in practice it had little effect.
1957 (23rd October)
A son, Martin Luther III, was born to Martin Luther and Coretta King.
1958 (23rd June)
Prominent civil rights leaders, including King, met with President Dwight Eisenhower to discuss the problems facing black Americans.
1958 (17th September)
King’s book ‘Stride Toward Freedom’ which tells the story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, was published.
1958 (20th September)
While signing copies of his book ‘Stride Toward Freedom’ in Blumstein’s store, Harlem, Martin Luther King was stabbed in the chest by a woman brandishing a letter opener. King was hospitalised and received surgery.
1959 (February)
King and his wife made a month long trip to India. During the visit he met the family of Gandhi.
1959 (during)
King’s book ‘The Measure of a Man’ which includes transcripts of two sermons that speak of racial equality, was published.
1959 (29th November)
King announced that he was resigning as pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in order to work full time in the SCLC.
1960 (20th January)
King moved to Atlanta, Georgia where he became co-Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church with his father.
1960 (1st February)
Lunch counter sit-ins began in Greensboro North Carolina as part of the protest for civil rights.
1960 (March)
Martin Luther King became honorary president of the ‘Gandhi Society for Human Rights’. The Society sought to raise funds and support the use of non-violent protest to gain civil rights for blacks in America.
1960 (15th April)
Martin Luther King spoke at the founding of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
1960 (19th October)
King was arrested during a restaurant sit-in and sentenced to four months in jail. He was released three days later after intervention by John Kennedy.
1960 (22nd October)
King was arrested again for driving with an incorrect license. He was sentenced to four months hard labour. His release was later secured by Attorney General Robert Kennedy.
1961 (30th January)
A son, Dexter Scott, was born to Martin Luther and Coretta King.
1961 (4th May)
Members of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) began making Freedom Rides through southern states in protest at continued segregation on interstate buses.
1961 (21st May)
Martin Luther King spoke at a rally in a church in Alabama in support of the Freedom Riders.
1961 (November)
Segregation on interstate transport was banned by the Interstate Commerce Commission.
1961 (November)
The Albany Movement was formed in Albany, Georgia. It was formed by black leaders, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the NAACP to draw attention to segregation in Georgia.
1961 (December)
Martin Luther King Jr was invited to work with the Albany Movement in organising protests and demonstrations.
1961 (16th December)
King was arrested while protesting peacefully in Albany, Georgia. He was released on bail and left the town.
1962 (February)
Robert Kennedy contacted Martin Luther King to warn him that his associates, Jack O’Dell and Stanley Levison were under suspicion of being connected to Communism and that he should remove himself from them. However, King maintained his close relationship with Levison.
1962 (27th July)
King returned to Albany. He was picked up by police and sentenced to 45 days in jail or a fine of $178 for his offence in December 1961. King chose jail. He was released after 3 days when his fine was paid for him.
1962 (10th August)
Having achieved very little, King decided to withdraw from the Albany Movement.
1962 (16th October)
Martin Luther King met President John Kennedy at the White House.
1963 (February)
Sit-in demonstrations began in Birmingham, Alabama.
1963 (28th March)
A daughter, Bernice Albertine, was born to Martin Luther and Coretta King.
1963 (3rd April)
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) began a campaign against segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. King’s idea was to stage mass demonstrations which would lead to multiple arrests and fill the city jail. This in turn would force city leaders to negotiate with the SCLC. However, as well as making mass arrests, police used water cannon and dogs against protesters. This was televised and viewers were shocked that the police used force against all demonstrators including children. King was criticised for putting children in danger.
1963 (12th April)
Martin Luther King was arrested and jailed for his part in the Birmingham protests. While in prison he wrote his ‘Letter from Birmingham City Jail’ which defended the rights of people to protest against injustices even if it meant breaking the law.
1963 (19th April)
King was released from jail on bond.
1963 (2nd May)
Police Commissioner Eugene (Bull) Connor authorised the use of water cannon, dogs and force against protestors. This was televised and viewers were shocked at the level of violence police used against all demonstrators, many of whom were children. King was criticised for putting children in danger.
1963 (6th May)
Just as King had hoped, the Birmingham city jail was full to overflowing. Bull Connor, Commissioner of Public Safety, was forced to put up makeshift jails.
1963 (8th May)
White leaders in Birmingham agreed to the protesters’ demands for desegregation. Bull Connor was sacked and Mayor Hanes resigned.
1963 (11th May)
The Gaston Motel, where King had been staying, was bombed.
1963 (11th June)
President Kennedy announced that segregation was legally and morally wrong and that he would be introducing new civil rights legislation.
1963 (22nd June)
King and other Civil Rights group leaders met with President John Kennedy to discuss plans for a rally to be known as the March on Washington. The leaders wanted Civil Rights legislation to ensure equality and a minimum wage for all workers.
1963 (23rd June)
King led more than 100,000 people on a Freedom Walk in Detroit.
1963 (28th August)
Around 250,000 people converged on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC at the end of the March on Washington. Martin Luther King delivered his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech during the rally.
1963 (15th September)
An explosion at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killed four black girls.
1963 (22nd September)
King spoke at the funeral for the four girls killed in the Birmingham church explosion.
1963 (Autumn)
The FBI began bugging King’s telephone line. J Edgar Hoover wanted to find a link between King and Communism to discredit the civil rights movement. Attorney General, Robert Kennedy approved the bugging for a short period. However, Hoover extended the authorisation.
1963 (22nd November)
President John Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, Texas.
1964 (during)
Having failed to find damaging evidence against King, Hoover now added him to their Counter Intelligence Program (Cointelpro). Cointelpro used resources and covert operations to discredit or bring down individuals deemed a danger to the United States.
1964 (3rd January)
Martin Luther King was named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year for 1963.
1964 (6th February)
King made a speech entitled ‘The American Race Crisis’ at New School in New York City.
1964 (March)
Martin Luther King and the SCLC worked with the St Augustine Movement in Florida.
1964 (June)
The St Augustine Movement in Florida, supported by King, made nightly marches through the city.
1964 (11th June)
King was arrested for protesting in St Augustine, Florida.
1964 (2nd July)
President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. The law stated that discrimination by race, colour, nationality, religion or sex was illegal. King was present at the White House for the signing of the Act.
1964 (December)
Martin Luther King and the SCLC worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Selma, Alabama to improve voter registration.
1964 (10th December)
Martin Luther King was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.
1965 (2nd January)
King spoke at Brown Chapel in Selma Alabama.
1965 (2nd February)
King was arrested in Selma Alabama for demonstrating in favour of voting rights.
1965 (March)
The SNCC supported by King decided to march from Selma to Montgomery in protest at continuing discrimination.
1965 (7th March)
The SNCC march to Montgomery began. King was not present on the day because it was a Sunday and he was in his church, but the marchers were peaceful. The police and white mobs used extreme violence against the demonstrators. The violence was televised and shocked many viewers leading to increase support for civil rights.
1965 (9th March)
King returned to Selma and attempted to reorganise the march to Montgomery. However, the council refused permission and King led a short march around Selma before dispursing the crowd.
1965 (25th March)
Martin Luther King led a march from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama. Federal troops had been mobilised to protect the marchers. At the end of the march King made a speech entitled ‘How Long, Not Long’ where he stated his belief that equality was on the horizon.
1965 (6th August)
The Voting Rights Act made racial discrimination in voting illegal.
1966 (22nd January)
King moved into a tenement building in Chicago to highlight poor living conditions.
1965 (6th June)
James Meredith, the first black student at Little Rock Arkansas, was shot during a march through Chicago and was taken to hospital. Despite the shooting, the march continued.
1966 (5th August)
King led a march through Marquette Park in Chicago. The marchers faced violence and verbal abuse by opponents in the region.
1967 (4th April)
Although he had long opposed the Vietnam War, King had not previously openely expressed his opinion on the subject. In Riverside Church, New York, King made a speech entitled ‘Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence’. The speech was not well received by white leaders and cost King much support, particularly from President Lyndon Johnson.
1967 (15th April)
King took part in an anti-war march from Central Park, Manhattan to the United Nations.
1967 (6th July)
It was reported that around 50% of blacks eligible had registered to vote.
1967 (30th October)
King was jailed for four days for demonstrating without a permit.
1968 (13th January)
King called for a march on Washington against the Vietnam War.
1968 (early)
Martin Luther King and the SCLC began organising a Poor People’s Campaign to work for an end to poverty for poor Americans.
1968 (18th March)
King went to Memphis Tennessee to support black sanitation workers who had been on strike for 17 days in protest against lower wages and poorer working conditions than their white counterparts.
1968 (28th March)
King led a march in Memphis Tennessee in support of black sanitation workers. The level of violence against the marchers shocked King.
1968 (3rd April)
King delivered his ‘I’ve Been to the Mountaintop’ speech at Mason Temple in Memphis.
1968 (4th April)
At 6.01 pm Martin Luther King stood on the balcony outside room 306 of the Lorraine Motel. He was shot by James Earl Ray and fell to the ground. Despite emergency surgery he was pronounced dead at 7.05 pm.
1968 (after 4th April)
The assassination sparked a series of riots and demonstrations across the United States.
1968 (9th April)
King’s funeral was attended by more than 50,000 people.


Published Jan 31, 2020 @ 3:20 pm – Updated -[last-modified]

Harvard Reference for this page:

Heather Y Wheeler. (2020). Martin Luther King 1929 – 1968 Last accessed [date]


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