x
Breaking News
More () »

Why was Dr. King chosen to lead the American Civil Rights Movement?

He was only 26 when he moved to the front of the historic movement

ATLANTA — In 1955, 26-year-old Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., made an offer that would move him to the front of the Civil Rights Movement and a place in American history.

Dr. King was a young preacher in Montgomery, Alabama, when his involvement in the battle against racial injustice began.

“He comes from an activist family, and when he sees injustice he’s drawn to grapple with ‘how do we fix that?'” said Nichole Moore of Atlanta’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

RELATED: The story behind Martin Luther King Jr.'s first major boycott

Dr. King will forever be remembered for his peaceful march toward racial justice. Here’s why he was picked to lead the American Civil Rights Movement.

Dr. King was in his early days as pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery when he offered the church basement to organizers of a bus boycott following the arrest of Rosa Parks. Much to his surprise, he was selected to lead the effort.

“You’re new in town, you have a calm demeanor,” said Moore. “Other established leaders were kind of like, ’I don’t know if I’m willing to take that big a risk.’”

On December 5, 1955, Dr. King delivered one of his most memorable speeches, vowing that the boycott would not end “until justice runs down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

The effort led to a Supreme Court decision ordering Montgomery to integrate its bus system.

Moore said the success of the boycott put the movement, and Dr. King, in a new light.

“He’s able to get a nation and a world to hear the voices of millions of Black Americans who were fighting to be recognized,” Moore said.

Two years later, Dr. King was elected to be the first President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, moving him from Montgomery to Atlanta. He never strayed from his commitment to non-violence in the face of hate.

“What he wanted to do was say, 'We’re not the issue, but when you see us being attacked, that’s the problem,'” says Moore.

His peaceful approach made Dr. King and his movement impossible to ignore.