Martin Luther King Net Worth
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American Baptist minister, humanitarian, activist, and leader who had a net worth equal to $250 thousand at the time of his death in 1968 (after adjusting for inflation). Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister and activist who was one of the most famous leaders of the civil rights movement in the mid-20th century. He is known for his principles of civil disobedience and nonviolence, and led numerous marches advocating for the rights of black people in the United States. King was an outspoken and prolific activist right up until his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968.
King led the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 and help to create the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957. King also served as the first president of the SCLC. He led nonviolent protests in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 that gained national attention which ultimately built a movement. He also helped organize the March on Washington in 1963 where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. In 1965 he organized the Selma to Montgomery marches.
He was posthumously awarded a President Medal of Freedman and a Congressional Gold Medal. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established in 1971 and it became a U.S. federal holiday in 1986. Hundreds of streets around the United States have been named in his honor. The Martin Luther King Jr Memorial on the national mall was opened and dedicated in 2011.
Early Life and Education
Martin Luther King Jr. was born as Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia as the second of three children of civil rights activist and minister Michael Sr. and his wife Alberta. His older sister is Christine, while his younger brother is Alfred. As a child, King was forced to attend Younge Street Elementary School, which was designated for black students. He was heavily influenced by his father’s work in the Church, as well as by his activism against segregation and other forms of discrimination. By the time he was five, King had memorized numerous hymns and Bible verses, and later became a member of his church’s junior choir. At the age of 12, he enrolled at the Atlanta University Laboratory School, where he took piano and violin lessons.
When he was 13, King became an assistant manager of a newspaper delivery station. He also enrolled at Booker T. Washington High School, the only one in the city for black students. There, he earned a reputation for his oratorical skills, and joined the school’s debate team. King subsequently attended the historically black college Morehouse College; to pay for his tuition and other costs, he worked at a tobacco farm in Simsbury, Connecticut. He also played football as a freshman. At the age of 18, King chose to enter the ministry, and studied under Baptist minister Benjamin Mays. He went on to graduate from Morehouse in 1948 with a BA in sociology.
Continued Education and Religious Work
Following his graduation from Morehouse, King enrolled at Crozer Theological Seminary in Upland, Pennsylvania, from which he graduated in 1951 with a Bachelor of Divinity. Subsequently, he began a doctoral program in systematic theology at Boston University. While there, King worked as an assistant minister at the school’s Twelfth Baptist Church. Later, in 1954, he became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, and the following year, earned his PhD from BU.
Montgomery Bus Boycott and SCLC
One of King’s first major forays into activism came in 1955, when he led the Montgomery bus boycott in protest of the arrests of Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks, both of whom refused to give up their bus seats to white men. The boycott lasted for 385 days, and grew so heated that King’s house was bombed. He was also arrested and imprisoned during the campaign, raising his public profile. Ultimately, the boycott led to the ruling of Browder v. Gayle, which prohibited racial segregation on Montgomery public buses. For his role in the campaign, King became a nationally recognized figure and the most visible spokesperson of the rising civil rights movement.
Among his other notable early achievements, King helped co-found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which was created to mobilize the power of black churches to fight nonviolently for civil rights reforms. King led the SCLC, spearheading the Albany Movement in Albany, Georgia and organizing many of the famous 1963 protests in Birmingham, Alabama. The group advocated for desegregation, labor rights, and the right of black people to vote, among other things. During the protests, many standoffs occurred between civil rights activists and segregationist authorities, which often resulted in violence committed by the latter. One of the most brutal confrontations was in 1965, when a peaceful march from Selma to Montgomery resulted in police and mob violence against demonstrators.
March on Washington
King’s most famed moment came at the March on Washington in 1963, where he and other civil rights leaders organized hundreds of thousands of people to march in advocacy for the civil and economic rights of African-Americans. In the most defining part of the event, King delivered a 17-minute speech calling for the end of racism in the United States, a speech that would become known as “I Have a Dream.” Given on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, it soon came to be regarded as one of the greatest speeches in American history, and was instrumental in facilitating the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
Later Activism and Assassination
In 1964, King won the Nobel Peace Prize for fighting racial injustice via civil disobedience. Over the ensuing years, he gradually expanded his activist focus to protest against such injustices as capitalism, poverty, and the Vietnam War. He participated in numerous marches and delivered many speeches pertaining to these subjects. In 1968, King and the SCLC organized the Poor People’s Campaign to address economic inequity, and traveled around the country to assemble a coalition of the underclass to march on Washington.
While in Memphis, Tennessee in March of 1968 to support a black workers’ strike, King was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel by James Earl Ray. The killing sparked nationwide race riots, as well as conspiracy allegations that the assassination was facilitated by the government, a view fueled by the fact that King had been under intense state surveillance during his career.
Personal Life and Legacy
King had his first romantic relationship while attending Crozer Theological Seminary, where he became involved with the white daughter of a German immigrant. He planned to wed her, but was discouraged when his friends warned of the dangers an interracial marriage would provoke. Later, while studying at BU, King was put in touch with fellow student Coretta Scott through a mutual friend. The pair hit it off, and married in 1953; they had four children named Yolanda, Martin III, Dexter, and Bernice.
King’s legacy continues to be monumental in both the United States and around the world. A plethora of memorials have been created in his honor, and his life and work are staples of school curricula. In 1977, King received a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom, and in 2003, was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. In his honor, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is officially observed in the United States on the third Monday of January each year.