The Atlantic

Martin Luther King Jr. Changed a Nation in Only 13 Years

A timeline
Source: Francis Miller / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty

Martin Luther King Jr. was just 26 when he came to prominence, by leading a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. He was only 39 when he was killed.


January 15, 1929:

Michael King Jr. is born in Atlanta to Michael King Sr., a prominent local preacher and civil-rights leader, and Alberta King, a former schoolteacher. In 1934, his father changes both of their first names to Martin—by , to correct a birth-certificate mistake or to honor the theologian Martin Luther. His childhood is comfortable; he excels in school,

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