The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929 - April 4, 1968) was a Baptist minister and African American civil rights activist. He organized and led marches for the right to vote, desegregation, fair hiring, and other basic civil rights. Most of these rights were successfully enacted into United States law with the passage of the U.S. Civil Rights Act and the U.S. Voting Rights Act. He is perhaps most famous for his "I Have A Dream" speech, given in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington DC.
Dr. King also led a series of three civil rights marches which were intended to go from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama in March of 1965. The first two attempts to march were aborted due to mob and police violence against the demonstrators. The worst violence was on March 7, a day which is known today as Bloody Sunday. Bloody Sunday was a major turning point in the effort to gain public support. The demonstrators successfully maintained their nonviolence despite the violence that was directed against them. The events were captured on film, and when U.S. citizens saw the footage their sympathies were aroused.
In 1964, King won the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 1986, a U.S. national holiday was established in honor of Martin Luther King, which is called Martin Luther King Day. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, around the time of Dr. King's birthday.