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Photo Gallery: 50 Years After MLK’s Death, A Look At His Life

He famously delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech during the 1963 March on Washington, calling for equality among the races

  • FILE - In this Aug. 28, 1963 file photo, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. acknowledges the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial for his "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington. (AP Photo/File)

 (Photo Credit: AP Photo/File)
    FILE - In this Aug. 28, 1963 file photo, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. acknowledges the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial for his "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington. (AP Photo/File) (Photo Credit: AP Photo/File)
  • FILE - In this Sept. 16, 1963 file photo, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gives a news conference in Birmingham, Ala., announcing he and other African-American leaders have called for federal Army occupation of Birmingham in the wake of the previous day's church bombing and shootings which left six black people dead. (AP Photo/File)

 (Photo Credit: AP Photo/File)
    FILE - In this Sept. 16, 1963 file photo, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gives a news conference in Birmingham, Ala., announcing he and other African-American leaders have called for federal Army occupation of Birmingham in the wake of the previous day's church bombing and shootings which left six black people dead. (AP Photo/File) (Photo Credit: AP Photo/File)
  • FILE - In this 1960 file photo, Martin Luther King Jr. speaks in Atlanta. The civil rights leader had carried the banner for the causes of social justice — organizing protests, leading marches and making powerful speeches exposing the scourges of segregation, poverty and racism. (AP File Photo)

 (Photo Credit: AP File Photo)
    FILE - In this 1960 file photo, Martin Luther King Jr. speaks in Atlanta. The civil rights leader had carried the banner for the causes of social justice — organizing protests, leading marches and making powerful speeches exposing the scourges of segregation, poverty and racism. (AP File Photo) (Photo Credit: AP File Photo)
  • FILE - In this March 1, 1965 file photo, registrar Carl Golson shakes a finger at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during meeting at the courthouse in Hayneyville, Ala. King inquired about voter registration procedures but Golson told him that if he was not a prospective voter in Lowndes county, "It's none of your business." King visited two nearby counties after leading a voter registration drive in Selma. (AP Photo/Horace Cort, File)

 (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Horace Cort, File)
    FILE - In this March 1, 1965 file photo, registrar Carl Golson shakes a finger at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during meeting at the courthouse in Hayneyville, Ala. King inquired about voter registration procedures but Golson told him that if he was not a prospective voter in Lowndes county, "It's none of your business." King visited two nearby counties after leading a voter registration drive in Selma. (AP Photo/Horace Cort, File) (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Horace Cort, File)
  • FILE - In this April 3, 1968 file photo, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stands with other civil rights leaders on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., a day before he was assassinated at approximately the same place. From left are Hosea Williams, Jesse Jackson, King, and Ralph Abernathy. (AP Photo/Charles Kelly, File)

 (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Charles Kelly, File)
    FILE - In this April 3, 1968 file photo, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stands with other civil rights leaders on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., a day before he was assassinated at approximately the same place. From left are Hosea Williams, Jesse Jackson, King, and Ralph Abernathy. (AP Photo/Charles Kelly, File) (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Charles Kelly, File)
  • FILE - In this March 22, 1956, file photo, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is welcomed with a kiss by his wife, Coretta, after leaving court in Montgomery, Ala. King was found guilty of conspiracy to boycott city buses in a campaign to desegregate the bus system, but a judge suspended his $500 fine pending appeal. (AP Photo/Gene Herrick, File)

 (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Gene Herrick, File)
    FILE - In this March 22, 1956, file photo, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is welcomed with a kiss by his wife, Coretta, after leaving court in Montgomery, Ala. King was found guilty of conspiracy to boycott city buses in a campaign to desegregate the bus system, but a judge suspended his $500 fine pending appeal. (AP Photo/Gene Herrick, File) (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Gene Herrick, File)
  • FILE - In this July 27, 1962 file photo, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is arrested by Albany's Chief of Police Laurie Pritchett after praying at City Hall in Albany, Ga. King participated in a month's long campaign of local anti-segregation led by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. (AP Photo, File)

 (Photo Credit: AP Photo, File)
    FILE - In this July 27, 1962 file photo, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is arrested by Albany's Chief of Police Laurie Pritchett after praying at City Hall in Albany, Ga. King participated in a month's long campaign of local anti-segregation led by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. (AP Photo, File) (Photo Credit: AP Photo, File)
  • FILE - In this Aug. 28, 1963 file photo, President John F. Kennedy stands with a group of leaders of the March on Washington, at the White House. From left are Whitney Young, National Urban League; Martin Luther King Jr., Southern Christian Leadership Conference; John Lewis, Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee; Rabbi Joachim Prinz, American Jewish Congress; Dr. Eugene P. Donnaly, National Council of Churches; A. Philip Randolph, AFL-CIO vice president; Kennedy; Walter Reuther, United Auto Workers; Vice-President Johnson, rear, and Roy Wilkins, NAACP. (AP Photo)

 (Photo Credit: AP Photo)
    FILE - In this Aug. 28, 1963 file photo, President John F. Kennedy stands with a group of leaders of the March on Washington, at the White House. From left are Whitney Young, National Urban League; Martin Luther King Jr., Southern Christian Leadership Conference; John Lewis, Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee; Rabbi Joachim Prinz, American Jewish Congress; Dr. Eugene P. Donnaly, National Council of Churches; A. Philip Randolph, AFL-CIO vice president; Kennedy; Walter Reuther, United Auto Workers; Vice-President Johnson, rear, and Roy Wilkins, NAACP. (AP Photo) (Photo Credit: AP Photo)
  • FILE - In this Jan. 18, 1964 file photo, President Lyndon B. Johnson, right, talks with civil rights leaders in the White House in Washington. From left, are, Roy Wilkins, executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; James Farmer, national director of the Committee on Racial Equality; the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Whitney Young, executive director of the Urban League. (AP Photo, File)

 (Photo Credit: AP Photo, File)
    FILE - In this Jan. 18, 1964 file photo, President Lyndon B. Johnson, right, talks with civil rights leaders in the White House in Washington. From left, are, Roy Wilkins, executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; James Farmer, national director of the Committee on Racial Equality; the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Whitney Young, executive director of the Urban League. (AP Photo, File) (Photo Credit: AP Photo, File)
  • FILE - In this March 31, 1968 file photo, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., left, who heads the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, preaches to a capacity crowd from the pulpit at the National Cathedral in Washington. King spoke from the Cathedral's Canterbury Pulpit. It would be his last Sunday sermon before he was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis. (AP Photo/John Rous, File)

 (Photo Credit: AP Photo/John Rous, File)
    FILE - In this March 31, 1968 file photo, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., left, who heads the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, preaches to a capacity crowd from the pulpit at the National Cathedral in Washington. King spoke from the Cathedral's Canterbury Pulpit. It would be his last Sunday sermon before he was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis. (AP Photo/John Rous, File) (Photo Credit: AP Photo/John Rous, File)
  • FILE - In this Dec. 10, 1964 file photo, U.S. civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King receives the Nobel Peace Prize from Gunnar Jahn, chairman of the Nobel Committee, in Oslo, Norway. (AP Photo, File)

 (Photo Credit: AP Photo, File)
    FILE - In this Dec. 10, 1964 file photo, U.S. civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King receives the Nobel Peace Prize from Gunnar Jahn, chairman of the Nobel Committee, in Oslo, Norway. (AP Photo, File) (Photo Credit: AP Photo, File)
  • FILE - In this June 12, 1964 file photo, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks to Andrew Young as King rides in the back seat of a police car with a police dog as he is returned to jail in St. Augustine, Fla., after testifying before a grand jury investigating racial unrest in the city. (AP Photo, File)

 (Photo Credit: AP Photo, File)
    FILE - In this June 12, 1964 file photo, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks to Andrew Young as King rides in the back seat of a police car with a police dog as he is returned to jail in St. Augustine, Fla., after testifying before a grand jury investigating racial unrest in the city. (AP Photo, File) (Photo Credit: AP Photo, File)
  • FILE - In this undated file photo, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., preaches in Albany, Ga. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo, File)

 (Photo Credit: AP Photo, File)
    FILE - In this undated file photo, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., preaches in Albany, Ga. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo, File) (Photo Credit: AP Photo, File)
  • In this March 17, 1963, file photo, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, sit with three of their four children in their Atlanta, Ga., home. From left are: Martin Luther King III, 5, Dexter Scott, 2, and Yolanda Denise, 7. On April 4, 1968, a movement lost its patriarch when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed on a hotel balcony in Memphis. Yolanda, Martin, Dexter and Bernice King lost their father. (Photo Credit: AP Photo/File)
    In this March 17, 1963, file photo, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, sit with three of their four children in their Atlanta, Ga., home. From left are: Martin Luther King III, 5, Dexter Scott, 2, and Yolanda Denise, 7. On April 4, 1968, a movement lost its patriarch when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed on a hotel balcony in Memphis. Yolanda, Martin, Dexter and Bernice King lost their father. (Photo Credit: AP Photo/File)
  • Fifty years ago, on April 4, 1968, a bullet robbed us of one of the great human-rights leaders of the 20th century, Martin Luther King Jr. (Photo Credit: Photo via Wikipedia )
    Fifty years ago, on April 4, 1968, a bullet robbed us of one of the great human-rights leaders of the 20th century, Martin Luther King Jr. (Photo Credit: Photo via Wikipedia )
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    36233249121_55cd558207_o1
  • Fifty years ago, on April 4, 1968, a bullet robbed us of one of the great human-rights leaders of the 20th century, Martin Luther King Jr. (Photo Credit: Photo via Wikipedia )
    Fifty years ago, on April 4, 1968, a bullet robbed us of one of the great human-rights leaders of the 20th century, Martin Luther King Jr. (Photo Credit: Photo via Wikipedia )

Martin Luther King Jr. was 39 when he was assassinated on the evening of April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, and he had already become one of the world’s most well-known figures.

He helped organize the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a city bus.

He famously delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech during the 1963 March on Washington, calling for equality among the races.

He pushed for federal civil rights legislation that was eventually enacted and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work. King’s example, and his insistence on nonviolent protest, continues to influence many activists pushing for civil rights and social change.

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