Special Report

Famous Photos From Martin Luther King Jr's Life

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we celebrate this Monday, Jan. 16, is one of the most famous, influential, and respected American leaders of the 20th century. King is known for his tireless and ultimately largely successful campaigns against racial and economic injustice, inspired by the principles of civil disobedience advocated by Mahatma Gandhi. (Read about the origins of every American federal holiday.)

King was born in Atlanta in 1929, the son of early civil rights activist Martin Luther King Sr., pastor of the city’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. After his studies at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania and Boston University, the younger King was named pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Soon after, in 1955, he led the historic Montgomery bus boycott, sparked by the refusal of a Black woman, Rosa Parks, to give up her bus seat to a white man. 

That was the beginning of King’s long public fight against Jim Crow laws, institutionalized racism, economic inequality, and other evils. From 1955 until he was cut down by an assassin’s bullet in 1968, King helped organize and lead such crucial civil rights efforts as the Youth March for Integrated Schools, the Birmingham campaign, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the Selma to Montgomery marches, and the Chicago Open Housing Movement. (Here’s more about Dr. King and the 49 other most important civil rights leaders of the 20th century.)

In time, King’s fame grew as an activist and moral leader – and as one of the most commanding orators of his time. He became big news and was the subject of countless articles (not all of them favorable), as well as frequent photographic coverage, which gives us a close-up look at this great American, bringing him alive for us 54 years after his death.

Click here to see famous photos from Martin Luther King Jr’s life

To assemble a collection of 26 photographs of the life of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr, 24/7 Tempo reviewed historical archives from Getty Images, Picryl, Wikimedia, and the Library of Congress. The scope of images ranges from those depicting him giving iconic speeches to those chronicling his everyday life with his family.

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