Martin Luther King, Jr., was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated from Morehouse College in 1948 and the Crozer Theological Seminary in 1951. He then took a Ph.D. in theology from Boston University in 1955. King soared into the national consciousness as leader of the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 and 1956, and in 1957 he established the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to fight segregation. In 1960, King was one of the founding members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Motivated by the passive disobedience of Mahatma Gandhi in India, King applied those same tactics to the American South, leading demonstrations, sit-ins, boycotts, and protest marches. By 1965, when the Vietnam War escalation began, King was the foremost civil rights leader in the United States.
From the very beginning of the conflict in Vietnam, King had grave misgivings about it, seeing it as a misguided effort on the part of the United States, which the Third World would interpret as merely another attempt by the white, industrialized West to colonize the rest of the world. King was also distressed by the effect of the draft on the black community and the exceedingly large numbers of casualties black soldiers were sustaining in 1965 and 1966. In 1967, King openly protested the Vietnam War and linked the civil rights and antiwar movements together, a step which earned him the anger of President Lyndon Johnson and most civil rights leaders. Other civil rights leaders, both black and white, worried that linking the two movements would only dissipate the force of the campaign for equality. But King was convinced that the Vietnam War was diverting financial and emotional resources away from domestic programs and into a senseless effort abroad. By 1968, the rest of the country was gradually coming around to King's point of view, but his voice was stopped by an assassin on April 4, 1968.