Our next Great Networker in history has received numerous awards including Nobel Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He is one of only four leaders who have a federal holiday to honor them individually.
A champion of Civil Rights, Martin Luther King, Jr. used his skills as an orator to infuse crowds with passion. He also used his skills as a networker to bring people and organizations together, rallying them around a similar mission. Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of the original value-based networkers.
Born to Martin Luther King and Alberta Williams in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 15, 1959, King was born into a family of speakers. Both King’s father and grandfather were Baptist ministers and skilled orators.
King skipped several grades in elementary and high school, eventually earning his B.A. in Sociology from Morehouse in 1948. After attending Crozer Theological Seminary, King completed his doctoral studies in Systematic Theology at Boston University.
While studying at Boston University, King met Coretta Scott. They began dating and married shortly after graduating in 1953.
In 1955, while King was the pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks ignored the Jim Crow laws and refused to give up her seat to a white man. This action resulted in her arrest and one of the largest movements in American history.
In response, King led the Montgomery Bus Boycott during which the black community refused to ride city busses. Along with leaders such as Fred Grey and Joann Robinson, King organized carpools and fundraisers to make sure the community had transportation. The news that King was arrested for “hindering” a bus brought the movement to national attention. After 382 days, the boycotters succeeded in causing serious economic distress for the city transit system.
With assistance from Rustin, Joseph Lowery, Ella Baker, and T.J. Jemison, King founded the SCLC, the Southern Christian Leadership Council. This group would organize marches, boycotts and protests that focused on creating a non-violent and civil community.
Throughout the remainder of the fifties and early sixties, King continued to effectively bring people together to demand basic civil rights for the black community. During this time King, along with the SCLC, Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, Whitney Young, Jr. of the Urban League, and A. Philip Randolph of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, were organizing their largest march yet.
On August 28, 1963, over a quarter million people joined the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” Once everyone convened at the Lincoln Monument, King delivered one of the finest speeches in American history. It was this day that King uttered the famous words “I Have a Dream.”
Walking off the stage, King was met by John F. Kennedy who shook his hand and repeated back to King “I have a dream.”
In March of 1965, King and the SCLC had organized a march from Selma to the state capital, Montgomery. The first march had to be aborted because of mob and police violence that caused the day to be named Bloody Sunday. To avoid a reoccurrence, King met with Lyndon B. Johnson and attempted to delay the march.
The march carried on anyway and turned out to be a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement, because footage of the police brutality against the protesters was broadcast extensively, arousing national public outrage.
King soon turned his attention to the North. In 1966, King and his family moved to the slums of Chicago. Aided by Ralph Abernathy, King went to educate, support and show empathy for the poor.
He teamed briefly with a seminary student named Jesse Jackson while in Chicago. When King left Chicago, he left Jackson in charge of keeping the Movement alive and progressing.
Shortly after giving his prophetic speech “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top,” King was walking on the balcony at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, when he was shot in the throat. He was pronounced dead at 7:05pm at St. Joseph’s Hospital.