“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." - Martin Luther King, Jr. 

During the 1950s and ‘60s, the civil rights movement was at its peak. For decades, there were key influential leaders who led groups to enforce the constitutional and legal rights for African Americans. Social organizations were formed and led by the community to aid in ending segregation and racial discrimination in the United States. One of the most popular and influential leaders was reverend, Nobel Peace Prize Winner and civil rights activist, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Join us in commemorating his life and legacy through these powerful photographs.

King grew up in Atlanta, GA, where he excelled at Booker T. Washington High School. He had quite the knack for public speaking and debate and was able to use his skill as an assistant manager of the newspaper for the Atlanta Journal. During his time in high school, King, wise beyond his years, was presented with the opportunity to enroll at Morehouse College, a well-respected, historically black college. Following in his father’s footsteps, during his last years at Morehouse, he decided to enter full-time ministry. King developed a heart for serving others and believed, "ministry was not a miraculous or supernatural something. On the contrary it was an inner urge calling [him] to serve humanity."

Over the years, King became the pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, and later co-pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. During his time as pastor, King along with others, founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and was a staple leader of the civil rights movement. He campaigned with local and national activists demonstrating in peaceful protest through sit-ins, marches and powerful speeches. In 1963, at the March on Washington, King recited his most famous “I Have A Dream” speech. King continued to fight for change and was a key influence during the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering the "I Have A Dream" speech at the 1963 Washington D.C. Civil Rights March.
King stands behind President Lyndon B. Johnson as he signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Via Business Insider)

King was not on this journey alone, he was accompanied and supported by his loving wife and civil rights activist Coretta Scott King. While leading the masses for change, they also built a life together in hopes that their, “four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character".

King is embraced with a kiss from his wife, Coretta Scott King, after being released from jail in 1956. (via Associated Press)

During a trip to Memphis, TN, King rallied with workers who had been on strike for higher wages. During this trip, he recited what would be his last speech on April 3rd, 1968, known as “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”. The following day, on April 4th, 1968, King was fatally shot outside the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN.

Pulitzer Prize winning image of Coretta Scott King and daughter Bernice King at the funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr. ( Photo by Moneta Sleet, Jr.)
King delivering what would be his last speech, " I've Been to the Mountaintop". ( via Associated Press)

Following King’s assassination, his legacy continued to spark change. In 1968, during the riots surrounding King’s death, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act of 1968. King was an iconic figure in the ‘60s, and we continue to follow in his footsteps through leadership, advocating for social justice, fighting prejudices and racism; and serving others.