On December 1st, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on aBirmingham, Alabama bus, initiating the events that would catapult Martin Luther King Jr. to worldwide prominence. At the time, King had recently received his Ph. D. in theology from Boston University , and had accepted the post of pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in nearbyMontgomery, Alabama . Members of Montgomery ’s African-American community, including the NAACP, formed the Montgomery Improvement Association to organize the bus boycotts that brought the civil rights movement into mainstream awareness. Dr. King was elected president of the MIA.
Members and officials of the MIA came under increasing scrutiny from authorities, and the local police increased harassment of drivers in the MIA’s car pool. On January 26, 1956, Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested by police for driving 30 miles per hour in a 25 mph zone. Ordinarily such an offense would only merit a written citation. King was taken to theMontgomery jail for a short while before being released to a crowd of well-wishers. Despite increasing threats against both himself and his family—including a fire bomb attack against his house on January 30th—King lead the bus protests to their successful conclusion 381 days later.
During the course of his career, Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested thirty times while participating in civil rights activities. In 1964, at the age of 35, Martin Luther King Jr. was the youngest man ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. On April 4, 1968, he was assassinated while standing on the balcony of his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee .