Martin Luther King, Jr. Net Worth at Death – Salary, Income, Earnings

Martin Luther King Net Worth 

Martin Luther King has an estimated net worth of $250 thousand. Martin Luther King Jr. was a scholar and minister who led the civil rights movement. After his assassination, he was memorialized by Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Martin Luther King Jr. fundamentally changed race relations in the United States beginning in the mid-1950s. Among his many efforts, King led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Through his activism and inspirational speeches, he played a critical role in ending legal racial segregation for African American citizens in the United States, as well as in the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, among several other honors. He is still considered one of the most influential and inspirational African American leaders in history.

To calculate the net worth of Martin Luther King, subtract all his liabilities from his total assets. Investments, savings, cash deposits, and any equity he has in a house, car, or other similar asset are included in the total assets. All debts, such as personal loans and mortgages, are included in total liabilities.

Here’s the breakdown of his net worth:

Name: Martin Luther King
Net Worth: $250 Thousand
Monthly Salary: $10 Thousand
Annual Income: $200 Thousand
Source of Wealth: Writer, Civil rights activist, Minister of religion

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Early Life

Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, as Michael King Jr., the middle child of Michael King Sr. and Alberta Williams King.

The King and Williams families were originally from rural Georgia. A.D. Williams, Martin Jr.’s grandfather, was a rural minister for many years before moving to Atlanta in 1893.

He transformed the small, struggling Ebenezer Baptist Church, which had around 13 members, into a powerful congregation. He married Jennie Celeste Parks, and they had one child, Alberta, who survived.

Martin Sr. was born into a sharecropper family in a poor farming community. After an eight-year courtship, he married Alberta in 1926. The newlyweds relocated to A.D.’s Atlanta home.

Martin Sr. took over as pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church after his father-in-law died in 1931. He, too, became a successful minister, taking the name Martin Luther King Sr. after the German Protestant religious leader Martin Luther. Michael Jr. would eventually follow in his father’s footsteps and take on the name himself.

Willie Christine King was King’s older sister, and Alfred Daniel Williams King was his younger brother. The King children were raised in a safe and loving environment. Martin Sr. was the more strict disciplinarian, while his wife’s gentleness easily offset the father’s strict hand.

Despite their best efforts, King’s parents were unable to completely protect him from racism. Martin Sr. fought against racial prejudice not only because his race was victimized, but also because he saw racism and segregation as an affront to God’s will. He strongly discouraged his children from feeling superior to others, which left a lasting impression on Martin Jr.

Growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, King began attending public school at the age of five. He was baptized in May 1936, but the event left little of an impression on him.

King was 12 years old when his grandmother, Jennie, died of a heart attack in May 1941. The incident was particularly traumatic for King because he was out watching a parade against his parents’ wishes when she died. Disgusted by the news, young King allegedly attempted suicide by jumping from a second-story window at the family home.

King attended Booker T. Washington High School, where he was described as a gifted student. He skipped ninth and eleventh grades and enrolled in Morehouse College in Atlanta at the age of 15 in 1944. He was a popular student, particularly among his female classmates, but he was an unmotivated student who slid through his first two years.

Despite his family’s deep involvement in the church and worship, King questioned religion in general and felt uneasy with overly emotional displays of religious worship. This discomfort persisted throughout his adolescence, prompting him to decide against entering the ministry, much to his father’s chagrin.

But in his junior year, King took a Bible class, renewed his faith, and began to consider a ministry career. He informed his father of his decision in the fall of his senior year.

Education and Spiritual Growth

In 1948, King earned a sociology degree from Morehouse College and enrolled at the liberal Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. In 1951, he graduated as class valedictorian and was elected student body president. He was also given a fellowship to attend graduate school.

However, King rebelled against his father’s more conservative influence in college by drinking beer and playing pool. He got involved with a white woman and struggled for a long time before calling it quits.

Morehouse College President Benjamin E. Mays mentored King during his final year of seminary, and he had an impact on King’s spiritual development. Mays was an outspoken advocate for racial equality who encouraged King to see Christianity as a force for social change. After being accepted by several colleges for his doctoral studies, King enrolled at Boston University.

During his doctoral studies at Boston’s New England Conservatory, King met Coretta Scott, an aspiring singer and musician. They married in June 1953 and had four children: Yolanda, Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott, and Bernice.

In 1954, while still working on his dissertation, King was appointed pastor of Montgomery, Alabama’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. He completed his Ph.D. and received his degree in 1955. At the time, King was only 25 years old.

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Montgomery Bus Boycott

On March 2, 1955, a 15-year-old girl refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery city bus to a white man, in violation of local law. Claudette Colvin, a teen, was then arrested and taken to jail.

At first, the local NAACP chapter thought they had a good case to challenge Montgomery’s segregated bus policy. However, when it was revealed that Colvin was pregnant, civil rights leaders feared that this would embarrass the deeply religious Black community and make Colvin (and thus the group’s efforts) less credible in the eyes of sympathetic white people.

They were given another chance to make their case on December 1, 1955. Rosa Parks, 42, boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus that evening to return home after a long day at work. She sat in the first row of the bus’s “colored” section in the center. As the bus drove along, all of the seats in the white section filled up, and several more white passengers boarded.

When the bus driver noticed several white men standing, he demanded that Parks and several other African Americans vacate their seats. Parks remained seated despite the fact that three other African American passengers reluctantly gave up their seats.

The driver asked her to give up her seat again, and she refused. Parks was arrested and booked on charges of violating Montgomery City Code. Parks was found guilty a week later in a 30-minute hearing and fined $10 plus a $4 court fee.

E.D. Nixon, the head of the local NAACP chapter, met with King and other local civil rights leaders on the night Parks was arrested to plan a Montgomery Bus Boycott. King was chosen to lead the boycott because he was young, well-educated, had strong family ties, and had professional standing. However, because he was new to the community and had few enemies, it was assumed that he would have strong credibility with the Black community.

King declared in his first speech as the group’s president, “We have no choice but to protest. We have demonstrated incredible patience over many years. We have occasionally given our white brothers the impression that we approve of how we are treated. But we come here tonight to be saved from the patience that allows us to be content with anything less than freedom and justice.”

King’s deft rhetoric infused new life into Alabama’s civil rights struggle. The bus boycott included 382 days of walking to work, as well as harassment, violence, and intimidation against Montgomery’s African American community. Both the homes of King and Nixon were attacked.

However, the African American community filed a lawsuit against the city ordinance, claiming that it was unconstitutional based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education that “separate is never equal.” After losing several lower court rulings and incurring significant financial losses, the city of Montgomery repealed the law requiring segregated public transportation.

Southern Christian Leadership Conference

Following their victory, African American civil rights leaders saw the need for a national organization to help coordinate their efforts. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference was founded in January 1957 by King, Ralph Abernathy, and 60 ministers and civil rights activists to harness the moral authority and organizing power of Black churches. They would assist in the organization of nonviolent protests to promote civil rights reform.

King’s membership in the organization provided him with a southern base of operations as well as a national platform. The organization believed that enfranchising African Americans in the voting process was the best place to start in giving them a voice.

The SCLC sponsored more than 20 mass meetings in key southern cities in February 1958 to register Black voters in the South. King met with religious and civil rights leaders and lectured on race-related issues across the country.

With the assistance of the American Friends Service Committee and inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s success with nonviolent activism, King traveled to Gandhi’s birthplace in India in 1959. The trip had a profound impact on him, strengthening his commitment to America’s civil rights struggle.

Bayard Rustin, an African American civil rights activist who had studied Gandhi’s teachings, became one of King’s associates and advised him to dedicate himself to the principles of nonviolence. Throughout his early activism, Rustin served as King’s mentor and advisor, and he was the primary organizer of the 1963 March on Washington.

But, as a homosexual with alleged Communist Party ties, Rustin was a divisive figure at the time. Despite the fact that his advice was invaluable to King, many of his other supporters advised him to distance himself from Rustin.

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Greensboro Sit-In

A group of African American students in North Carolina launched the Greensboro sit-in movement in February 1960.

In the city’s stores, the students would eat at racially segregated lunch counters. When told to leave or sit in the colored section, they simply sat there, subjecting themselves to verbal and sometimes physical abuse.

The movement quickly spread to several other cities. The SCLC hosted a conference with local sit-in leaders in April 1960 at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. During their protests, King encouraged students to continue using nonviolent methods.

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was formed as a result of this meeting, and it collaborated with the SCLC for a time. By August 1960, the sit-ins had succeeded in bringing an end to segregation at lunch counters in 27 southern cities.

By 1960, King had gained national attention. He returned to Atlanta to co-pastor Ebenezer Baptist Church with his father, but he also continued his civil rights work.

On October 19, 1960, King and 75 students went into a local department store and asked for lunch counter service, but they were turned down. King and 36 others were arrested after refusing to leave the counter area.

Atlanta’s mayor negotiated a truce after realizing the incident would harm the city’s reputation, and charges were eventually dropped. However, King was imprisoned soon after for violating his probation on a traffic conviction.

The news of his imprisonment made its way into the 1960 presidential campaign when candidate John F. Kennedy called Coretta Scott King. Kennedy expressed his displeasure with King’s harsh treatment for the traffic ticket, and political pressure was quickly applied. King was quickly released.

Letter from Birmingham Jail

King organized a demonstration in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, in the spring of 1963. With entire families present, police used dogs and fire hoses on demonstrators.

King was imprisoned, along with a large number of his supporters, but the event received widespread attention. However, both Black and white clergy chastised King for taking risks and endangering the children who attended the demonstration.

King eloquently stated his theory of nonviolence in his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail: “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community, which has consistently refused to negotiate, is forced to confront the issue.”

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‘I Have a Dream’ Speech

By the end of the Birmingham campaign, King and his supporters were planning a massive demonstration on the nation’s capital that would include multiple organizations all calling for peaceful change.

The historic March on Washington drew over 200,000 people in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech here, emphasizing his belief that one day all men could be brothers

“I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  — Martin Luther King, Jr. / “I Have A Dream” speech, August 28, 1963

The rising tide of civil rights agitation had a significant impact on public opinion. Many people in non-racial cities began to question the country’s Jim Crow laws and the nearly century of second-class treatment of African American citizens.

Nobel Peace Prize

As a result, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, authorizing the federal government to enforce desegregation of public accommodations and prohibiting discrimination in publicly owned facilities. As a result, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

Throughout the 1960s, King’s struggle was ongoing. The pattern of progress seemed to be two steps forward and one step back at times.

On March 7, 1965, a planned civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama’s capital, devolved into violence when police with nightsticks and tear gas confronted demonstrators as they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Although King was not on the march, the attack was televised, and images of bloodied and severely injured marchers were shown. Seventeen protesters were hospitalized on what became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

A second march was canceled because a restraining order was issued to prevent the march from taking place. A third march was planned, and King made sure he was there. A different approach was taken in order not to alienate southern judges by violating the restraining order.

On March 9, 1965, a procession of 2,500 marchers, both black and white, attempted to cross the Pettus Bridge once more, but were met with barricades and state troopers. Instead of forcing a confrontation, King directed his followers to kneel in prayer before turning around.

Alabama Governor George Wallace persisted in his efforts to prevent another march until President Lyndon B. Johnson pledged his support and ordered US Army troops and the Alabama National Guard to protect the protestors.

On March 21, approximately 2,000 people began a march from Selma to the state capitol in Montgomery. On March 25, an estimated 25,000 marchers congregated in front of the state capitol, where King delivered a televised speech. President Johnson signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act five months after the historic peaceful protest.

From late 1965 to 1967, King expanded his civil rights campaign into larger American cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles. However, he faced growing criticism and public challenges from young Black power leaders.

Many Black militants were turned off by King’s patient, nonviolent approach and appeal to white middle-class citizens. They saw his methods as too weak, too late, and ineffective.

To respond to this criticism, King began to connect discrimination and poverty, and he began to speak out against the Vietnam War. He believed that America’s involvement in Vietnam was politically unsustainable, and that the government’s actions in the war were discriminatory toward the poor. He sought to broaden his support by forming a multi-racial coalition to address the economic and employment issues confronting all disadvantaged people.

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Who Killed Martin Luther King Jr.?

By 1968, King’s years of protests and confrontations had taken their toll. He was sick of marching, going to jail, and living under constant threat of death. He was becoming dissatisfied with the slow progress of civil rights in America, as well as the growing criticism from other African American leaders.

Another march on Washington was planned to resurrect his movement and draw attention to a broader range of issues. A sanitation workers’ strike in Memphis in the spring of 1968 drew King to one final crusade.

On April 3, he delivered his final and eerily prophetic speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” to supporters at the Mason Temple in Memphis “I’ve witnessed the promised land. I might not be able to accompany you. But I want you to know tonight that we will reach the promised land as a people.”

Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated the next day while standing on a balcony outside his Lorraine Motel room. After a two-month international manhunt, the shooter, a disgruntled drifter and former convict named James Earl Ray, was apprehended.

Riots and demonstrations erupted in over 100 cities across the country in response to the assassination. Ray pleaded guilty to the assassination of King in 1969 and was sentenced to 99 years in prison. On April 23, 1998, he died in prison.

Legacy

King’s death had a profound effect on race relations in the United States. Years after his death, he is still regarded as the most prominent African American leader of his time.

His life and work have been recognized with a national holiday, schools and public buildings named after him, and a memorial on Washington, D.C.’s Independence Mall.

However, his life remains contentious. In the 1970s, FBI files obtained through the Freedom of Information Act revealed that he was being watched by the government and that he was involved in adulterous relationships and communist influences.

Extensive archival research has resulted in a more balanced and comprehensive assessment of his life, portraying him as a complex figure: flawed, fallible, and limited in his control over the mass movements with which he was associated, yet a visionary leader deeply committed to achieving social justice through nonviolent means.

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday honoring the legacy of the slain civil rights leader, was established by President Ronald Reagan in 1983.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day was first observed in 1986, and it was declared a federal holiday in all 50 states in 2000.

Martin Luther King Quotes

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

 

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

 

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

 

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

 

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

 

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

 

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.

 

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

View our larger collection of the best Martin Luther King quotes.

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