Mini Biography



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Mini Biography

Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. His father, Martin Luther King Sr., was a pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. His mother was a schoolteacher. For Martin the civil rights movement began one summer in 1935 when he was six years old. Two of his friends did not show up to play ball with him and Martin decided to go looking for them. When he went to one of the boys' house, their mother met him at the front door and told him in a rude tone that her son would not be coming out to play with him that day or any other day because they were white and he was black. Years later, Martin admitted that those cruel words altered the direction of his life. As a teenager, Martin went through school with great distinction. He skipped ninth and 12th grades, and excelled as a public speaker.

In 1951 he entered Boston University School of Theology to pursue his Ph.D and after graduation, in 1954 Martin accepted a call to the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, to be its pastor despite the fact that Alabama was the poorest and most racist state in the US. He gave sermons in his church to help people realize the discrimination received by African Americans and encourage African Americans to stand up for their civil rights. Then an incident changed Martin's life forever.

On the cold winter night of December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a 42-year-old black seamstress(女裁縫工) who worked in a downtown Montgomery department store, boarded a bus for home and sat in the back with the other black passengers. A few stops later, she was ordered to give up her seat to a white passenger who just boarded. She repeatedly refused, prompting the driver to call the police, who arrested her. In response to Mrs. Parks' courage, the town's black leaders formed the Montgomery Improvement Association and elected Martin as its leader. The first goal of the MIA was to boycott the city's bus system until public transportation laws were changed. The strike was long, bitter and violent, but eventually the city's white merchants began to complain that their businesses were suffering because of the strike, and the city responded by filing charges against Martin. While in court to appeal the charges, he learned that the U.S. Supreme Court had affirmed the decision by the Alabama Supreme Court that the local laws requiring segregation on buses were unconstitutional.



The first civil rights battle was won, but for Martin it was the first of many more difficult ones. He began to establish a regional network of nonviolent organizations. He believed it is important to fight for what is right without using violence. In April 1961 he led two busloads of white and black passengers through the South on a "freedom ride" for publicity reasons. In Virgina and North and South Carolina there were no incidents, but in Anniston, Alabama, the ride became a rolling horror when one bus was burned and its passengers beaten by an angry racist white mob. In Birmingham, angry mobs--with some policemen joining them--greeted the bus with more violence. The violence shook Martin and he decided to abandon the freedom rides before someone was killed, but the riders insisted they complete the ride to Montgomery, where they were greeted with more violence. In January 1963 Martin arrived in Birmingham to organize a freedom march aimed to end segregation. Despite an injunction(禁制令) issued by city authorities against the gathering, the protesters marched and were attacked by the police. Three months later another march was planned with the intent to "turn the other cheek" in response to the violence by the city's police force. As the marchers reached downtown Birmgingham, the police attacked the crowd with high-pressure fire hoses and attack dogs. This time, however, the incident was witnessed across the entire country, as many network TV crews were there and broadcasting live footage of unarmed marchers being blasted to the ground by high-pressure hoses and others being bitten and mauled by snarling attack dogs, and it sparked a national outrage. The next day, more marchers repeated the walk and more policemen attacked with fire hoses and police dogs, leading to a total of 1,200 arrests. On the third day, Martin organized another march to the city jail. This time, when the marchers approached the police, none of them moved and some even let the marchers through to continue their march. The nonviolent strategy had worked--the strikes and boycotts were cutting deeply into the city merchants' revenues, and they called for negotiations and agreed with local black leaders to integrate lunch counters, fitting rooms, restrooms and drinking fountains within 90 days. Martin was then called for a rally in Washington, DC, near the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. Nearly 200,000 people stood in the intense heat listening to the speeches by the members and supporters of the NACCP. By the time Martin was called as the day's final speaker, the crowd was hot and tired. As he approached the podium, with his papers containing his prepared speech, he suddenly put them aside and decided to speak from the heart. He spoke of freedoms for blacks achieved and not yet achieved. He then spoke the words that echo throughout the world to this day: "I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. 'We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.' I have that dream." In 1964 Martin received the Nobel Peace Prize for his beliefs and actions toward peaceful civil rights reform. Although Martin Luther was a powerful leader, not everyone liked him. He was assassinated in Tennessee in 1968 and buried in the King Center at Atlanta, Georgia. Estimatedly 100,000 people attended his funeral. Martin Luther is remembered for his famous speeches, for his strong principles and for his tireless work for equality and peace. He is honored in the United States every year in January. A national holiday, called Martin Luther King Jr. Day, is celebrated on the third Monday on January.

1. Which of the following statements about Martin Luther King is NOT true?

A. He believed peace and equality could be reached through peaceful means.

B. He was one of the main leaders in American Civil Rights Movement.

C. He received Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating a better working condition for African Americans.

D. He was assassinated at the age of 39.

2. Which is not one of the measures taken by blacks in response to Rosa Park’s incident?

A. Boycotting the city’s bus system. B. Attacking police with high-pressure hoses.

C. Organizing freedom marches. D. Launching “Freedom Rides.”

3. Which place is NOT mentioned in the passage that has segregation practiced in 1960s?

A. At drinking fountains. B. On the bus. C. At lunch counters D. In the court.

4. How many people attended the march on Washington D.C. and listened to Martin Luther’s speech?



A. 1200. B 1968. C. About 200,000. D. About 100,000.


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