Martin Luther King, Jr. was a humanitarian and social reformer who fought for African-American civil rights during the 1950s and 60s. He was assassinated in 1968.
His famous "I Have a Dream" speech proclaimed a vision of equality and galvanized generations of Americans to fight against social and racial injustice. He was a leading activist in the American Civil Rights Movement.
King was an inspirational force which led to nonviolent protests against segregation in the 1950s, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He also took part in the 1963 March on Washington, a political rally which was a seminal event in advancing equal rights for African Americans. These campaigns were primary factors in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
King based his philosophy of peaceful civil disobedience on his Christian beliefs. He was also influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian political leader who used nonviolent tactics to lead the Indian independence movement against British rule in the 1930s and 40s. Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and is remembered on the third Monday of January, which has been an official American holiday since 1986.