Biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Leading the Nation's Civil Rights Movement
In 1957, Dr. King
rose from local to national leadership. On January 11, he
became chairman of the Southern Negro Leaders Conference on
Transportation and Nonviolent Integration, a group that was
Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). On
February 18, his picture appeared on the cover of Time
magazine. On May 17, he was honored in Washington, D. C.,
and delivered "Give Us the Ballot," his first speech
to the nation. On August 8, he launched a voter registration
drive across the entire South.
In September 1958,
Dr. King came out with his first book, Stride Toward Freedom:
The Montgomery Story, which told the story of the bus
boycott and explained nonviolent protest. At a book signing
in New York City, a woman named Izola Curry stabbed Dr. King,
and he was rushed to Harlem Hospital. While in the hospital,
Dr. King issued a statement forgiving his attacker and reaffirming
his faith in "the spirit of non-violence."
By early 1959, Dr. King had recovered enough to visit India for several weeks. There he met with Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal
Nehru and other followers of Gandhi, his guiding light along a nonviolent path to civil rights. On returning to the United States, the reverend compared race problems in his
country with the caste system in India.
In January 1960, Dr. King left his church in Montgomery to assist his father at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. His new position gave him more time for civil rights
work. Meanwhile, African American students in other parts of the South were also carrying on nonviolent protests. On February 1, four college freshmen in Greensboro, North Carolina,
sat down at a "whites-only" lunch counter and refused to move. Soon African American students across the South were conducting "sit-ins" at lunch counters. On April
15, African Americans attending Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, formed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)
to organize nonviolent protests at lunch counters and other segregated locations. Later that month, about 50 African Americans staged a "wade-in" at an all-white beach in Biloxi,
Mississippi, setting off riots in the city. Then, in May, civil rights protestors got welcome news: President Dwight
D. Eisenhower had signed the 1960 Civil Rights Act.