Martin Luther King Jr.

Civil rights leader
One of history's most iconic activists and orators, Martin Luther King Jr. led the non-violent civil rights movement that brought racial segregation in the United States to an end.

Why you should listen

Son of a Baptist minister, student of theology, adherent of Ghandi's teachings and the writings of Henry David Thoreau, Martin Luther King Jr. brought his supreme oratory skill and a visionary message of nonviolence to the fledgling African-American civil rights movement, leading it to historic influence. He spearheaded the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, spurring the United States Supreme Court to declare segregated busses unconstitutional, and the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech to a gathering of supporters 200,000-strong.

In the early '60s, King's all-encompassing message -- addressed to men and women of all different creeds -- drew support from major leaders, among them President John F. Kennedy, and laypeople of every color. The youngest man to receive the Nobel Peace Prize (he accepted the award in 1964, at age 35), King is remembered for his unbending commitment to the improvement of the lives of all people, even as the stormy '60s brought out leaders promoting more radical, separatist and militant ideology. His hopeful voice came to fill the hearts of millions, and still strongly resonates today, as citizens in America and elsewhere enjoy a world he envisioned but didn't live to see: more equal, more whole.

King was assassinated in 1968.

What others say

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." — Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. on the TED Blog

Culture

5 powerful talks about the quest for equality in the United States

April 8, 2013

Freeman Hrabowski was a 9th grader in Birmingham, Alabama, when he heard a dynamic, impassioned speaker at church — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time, King was organizing a march for children, and Hrabowski begged his parents to let him be a part of it. Hrabowski won their blessing to march in the […]

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Playlist

Martin Luther King Jr. as leader: A TED Talks playlist

January 16, 2011

Today in the United States, we’ll celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights leader. Dr. King was an activist, an orator, a thinker, and — as several recent TED Talks have pointed out — a visionary leader. These four speakers touch on ways in which King’s passionate style galvanized a movement whose time […]

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