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Black History and Blacks in U.S. History
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Theme Unit
Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 5 to 7
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   6.07

     challenging words:    housing, insistence, nonviolence, persuasive, unconstitutional, slum, teaching, coordinate, sniper, equality, discrimination, spokesman, racial, dignity, demonstration, resistance
     content words:    Martin Luther King, Montgomery Bus Boycott, On December, Rosa Parks, Jo Ann Robinson, Political Council, Montgomery Improvement Association, Luther King, In November, Supreme Court

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Martin Luther King Jr.
By Mary L. Bushong

1     Not long ago, life in our southern states was much different from the way it is today. The people there lived divided lives. White people and black people did not eat in the same restaurants, go to the same schools, or even drink from the same water fountains. That division is called segregation. Many people did not like that and wanted to change things, but they needed a leader. One leader was Martin Luther King Jr.
2     Dr. King was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He learned about segregation at the age of six, when the parents of his white friends would not let him play with their children anymore. After finishing college in Boston, he returned to the South and became the pastor of a church in Montgomery, Alabama. While in Boston, Dr. King had seen that blacks were not segregated. Dr. King knew that segregation was wrong. It meant that people were treated better or worse just because of the color of their skin. If desegregation was allowed in northern states, why couldn't it be allowed in the South?
3     People began to notice Dr. King during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. At that time, white people sat at the front of the bus and entered at the front door of the bus. Blacks sat at the back of the bus and had to enter through the back door. If all of the seats at the front of the bus were full, a black person had to give his seat to a white person. On December 1, 1955, a black woman named Rosa Parks got on the bus. When a white man needed her seat, she refused, and she was arrested.
4     Her arrest was not the first. These arrests made many people angry. Jo Ann Robinson, leader of the Women's Political Council, and E.D. Nixon, president of the local NAACP chapter, suggested the black community follow a one-day boycott of the city buses. That one day seemed to work so well that black leaders in the community wanted to continue the boycott. The "Montgomery Improvement Association" was formed to coordinate the boycott. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was elected president of the MIA. The group called for an end to segregation on city buses. Dr. King began to make speeches about civil rights.
5     During the boycott, blacks in Montgomery refused to ride the buses. They walked or rode bicycles to work, which made the bus company lose a lot of business. Dr. King convinced the people to act with an attitude of dignity and courage rather than anger. At age 27, his self-control and insistence on nonviolence made him a great spokesman for the boycott and a strong leader for the civil rights movement. In November 1956, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation on Montgomery buses was unconstitutional. The first of many battles had been won.
6     In 1957 Dr. King took another big step as a leader for civil rights. Along with Ralph Abernathy and some other black leaders, he formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Then on May 17 of that year he spoke to a crowd of about 25,000 in Washington, D.C. It was the first time King had a national audience.
7     In response to that conference, that year Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, the first since Reconstruction. Not everyone liked Dr. King's influence. One day while signing books in a store in Harlem, he was attacked and stabbed. That did not stop him from doing what he thought was right. He met with other black leaders and President Dwight D. Eisenhower to discuss problems.
8     Dr. King was very interested in the idea of nonviolent protest that Mohandas Gandhi had been teaching in India. It was an idea that Dr. King believed in, and he was finally able to go to India in 1959 to study Gandhi's ideas more fully.
9     Early in 1960, he and his family moved back to Atlanta. In those days, blacks could not sit down in any "whites only" cafe or lunchroom. In October 1960, Dr. King was arrested along with some 280 students in a "sit-in" at an Atlanta restaurant. He served ten days in jail, and was released only because President Kennedy's brother (and the U.S. Attorney General) Robert Kennedy stepped in to help.

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Black History and Blacks in U.S. History
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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Theme Unit
             Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Theme Unit

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