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The Suburbanite
  • 1963: A defining time for MLK and America

  • The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. would have been 83 years old on Jan. 15. While his life was cut short when he was assassinated in 1968, his wisdom and purpose live on as the nation celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year on Jan. 21. Looking back over the historic events of 1963 is a good way to jog memories that may have faded over time. Here’s a brief 1963 MLK timeline.

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  • The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. would have been 83 years old on Jan. 15. While his life was cut short when he was assassinated in 1968, his wisdom and purpose live on as the nation celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year on Jan. 21.
    Looking back 50 years, 1963 “was a momentous year for Martin Luther King Jr. and the nation,” said Steve Klein, communications director with The King Center in Atlanta. It is the year “that really solidified his national and international reputation as America’s leading visionary for social justice,” Klein said. “It was a pivotal year.”
    That year was packed with a number of events that defined the campaign for racial equality. The “I Have A Dream” speech was heard around the world when King delivered it at the Lincoln Memorial almost 50 years ago, on Aug. 28, 1963.
    Looking back over the historic events of 1963 is a good way to jog memories that may have faded over time. Here’s a brief 1963 MLK timeline:
    April 3, 1963
    King and the Southern Baptist Leadership Conference join with forces in Birmingham, Ala., to attack the city’s segregationist system during the busy Easter shopping season with lunch counter sit-ins, marches on city hall and boycott of downtown merchants. This was the beginning of the climax of the modern civil rights movement.
    April 12, 1963
    On Good Friday, King was arrested for continuing to protest in defiance of a court order, which attempted to stop the protests. King spoke about the philosophy of nonviolence.
    April 12-20, 1963
    While in solitary confinement, King writes the “Letter From Birmingham Jail” on the margins of a newspaper. This brilliant piece of writing presents a justification of civil disobedience and nonviolent demonstration. The letter is a response to “A Call for Unity” from eight white clergymen who urged protesters to be patient and let the courts decide. Establishing himself to all as an authority as a minister and leader of African-Americans, King presents a moral argument defining just and unjust laws.
    June 12, 1963
    Activist Medgar Evers is murdered while entering his home in Jackson, Miss. Evers is a martyr to the cause, and King’s work continues.
    Aug. 28, 1963
    About 250,000 people attend the March on Washington, where King delivers the “I Have A Dream” speech. This 17-minute, eloquent statement of the American dream — a dream of inclusion and a society that could be peaceful and equal — was the climax of the largest rally of the civil rights movement. Television cameras captured the event, bringing King’s passionate words to millions. The time had come; President John F. Kennedy responded by proposing civil rights legislation.
    Sept. 15, 1963
    The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., is bombed and four girls are killed. This act of terrorism marked a turning point in the civil rights movement. The church was a meeting point for leaders, including King, Ralph David Abernathy and Fred Shuttlesworth.
    Page 2 of 2 - Nov. 22, 1963
    Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson assumes the presidency. King and his wife, Coretta, are devastated, but Johnson rises to the challenge, setting the stage for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.