Martin Luther KING junior was born on 15 January 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia, in the South of the USA. His father was a leading minister in the baptist church, and a good businessman; the familly lived well, but they had a come a long way:Martin’s grand-mother had been a cleaning woman, and his grand-father had been a slave. Martin was intelligent. At only 15 years, he went to Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. At 17, he became a minister like his father. He continued his studies, and went to the Boston University for a doctorate in theology. There, he met a music student named Coretta Scott, and they married in 1953. A year later, Martin became a minister in Montgomery, in Alabama. He was an excellent preacher. He got his doctorate in 1955.

AN HISTORIC ACTION : THE BOYCOTT OF THE BUSES

In 1954, the Supreme Court of the US declared the segregations illegal, but the continued his racist practices. In Alabama, blacks were not permitted in the front of the buses. They had to sit in the back. More, if a white person want their seat, they had to get up. One day, in 1955, a black woman named Rosa Parks was tired and refused to get up. She was arrested, imprisoned for a night, and fined. A group of black leaders decided it was time for change. They created an association, and Martin Luther KING, 26, was the president of these. They organized a boycott of the buses. They wanted to alert the nation, and deprivethe bus compagnies of a lot of money: 75 per cent of bus passengers were black. People used car pools and taxis. They walked, but they didn’t take the bus! The civil rights movement in the USA had begun.

AN IMPORTANT DECISION : SEGREGATION BECOMES ILLEGAL

The boycott lasted a year. It created a sense of unity and hope, and attracted the media. But local whites were angry, and bombed KING’s house. Luckily, nobody was hurt. Finally, an important message came from the US Supreme Court. It said that Alabama’s laws on bus segregation were incontitutionnal (illegal). People in the streets applaused when King, accompagnes by Rosa Parks, got on the first integrated bus.

AN IMPORTANT ACTION :WORKING FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

In January 1957, southern black leaders founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to fight segregation; again, King was named president. Then he had an accident: when he was to New-York to sign a book he wrote about the boycott, he was stabbled by a crazy woman and nearly died. Later that year, he moved to Atlanta to work in his father’s church. In 1961, black and whites students from the North came south to help the fight. They were violently attacked by whites racists. But the media were there, and people saw that men and women in the south were suffering. More, racist laws were abolished, and the US government began to force the states to enforce equality. The Conference fought racist practices one by one. In Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963 hundreds of demonstrators, including children, were arrested. Many were brutalized by the police. But their fight won them the admiration of the nation, who saw them on TV, and finally, equality.

AN HISTORIC SENTENCE : « I HAVE A DREAM »

King organized a march in Washington on August 28, 1963, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the slavery.He expected 100 000 people, but really, 250 000 people came to the Lincoln Memorial and sang « we shall overcome » . It was the biggest demonstration in the history of the civil rights movement. King gave the greatest speech of his career. His message reached everyone, whatever their color or beliefs. There was hope, but there was still violence. Four girls were killed when a Birmingham church was bombed. Others were injured, and when the US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, a month later, in november 1963, Martin Luther King was sure that he will dead as he. On July 2, 1964, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. In October 1964, Martin Luther King Jr received the Nobel Peace Prize. His next project was helping the blacks vote safely in Selma, Alabama. They had the legal right to vote, but were stopped by intimidation. Finally, US president Johnson signed the Voting Rights Bill in 1965, which gave the federal governmenht the power to stop unfair voting practices.

A PROPHETIC SPEECH : THE DEAD IS AT HAND

In April 1968, Martin Luther King Jr went to Menphis, Tennessee to fight for equal pay. His speech was prophetic: « I would like to live a long life. But I am not concerned about that now...I’ve seen the promised land. I may not ger there with you.... » King spent the next day in his hotel room,preparing the protest. Again, he insisted on the need for non-violence. Later that evening, he and his friends went onto the hotel balcony for some air. There was a shot, and King fell. He had been shot in the neck. He was rushed to the hospital, but died an hour later. A man named James Earl Ray was later convicted of the murder. King’s death provoked terrible riots, and many people died. Stokely Carmichael, a black militant etudiant who had been his friend, said: « when white America killed King, she declared war on US. » Martin Luther King Jr’s funeral was at the Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, where he had preached his first sermon.He was 39 years old. More than 100 000 people came to honor him. On his tombstone was written the words of the Negro spiritual King had used in famous speech in Washington: « Free at last ».