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In Dr. King's Footsteps

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Places to Commemorate the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - Alabama
Signpost marking the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail

Signpost marking the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail

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The state of Alabama is significant to the life of Martin Luther King for various reasons. Dr. King met and married his wife Coretta Scott King in Alabama and settled in the capital Montgomery, where he became a pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in 1954. Dr. King's sermons from the Dexter Avenue pulpit propelled him to prominence in the burgeoning civil rights movement. From the pulpit of the Dexter Avenue church, King helped organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, a movement spawned from the refusal of Rosa Parks to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery city busy. The 385-day boycott resulted in the end of racial segregation on Montgomery buses.

Dr. King was also active in Alabama's largest city, Birmingham. In the spring of 1963, Dr. King and his colleagues in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), an organization he helped to found in 1957, led a nonviolent campaign in Birmingham to end the so-called Jim Crow Laws. Dr. King and the SCLC's efforts helped to end racial segregation in public places in Birmingham, leading the way for Jim Crow Laws across the south to crumble over the next decade.

Perhaps Martin Luther King's best-known actions in Alabama were the three marches he led from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 to protest voting rights for black Americans. The first two marches were met with violence. The first march, held on March 7, 1965, was called "Bloody Sunday" after police attacked approximately 600 protestors with billy clubs and tear gas. The second march, on March 9, saw more than 2,500 meet resistance after crossing Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge. In the intervening week, Federal District Court Judge Frank Minis Johnson ruled that Martin Luther King, Jr. and his fellow protestors had the right to protest under the First Amendment of the Constitution. On March 16, King and other voting rights activists began their march rom Selma to Montgomery with the protection of 2,000 U.S. Army soldiers and 1,900 members of the Alabama National Guard. The march ended in Montgomery on March 24, 1965. Today, the Selma to Montgomery March is memorialized as the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail.

 

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