By Susie Allen and Michael Drapa
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the University of Chicago three times between 1956 and 1966 — a decade that saw significant gains for the civil rights movement. A look back about the landmark events that shaped King's life and work during this transformative era:


May, 1954

Brown v. Board of Education

The Supreme Court rules in Brown v. Board of Education that public school segregation is unconstitutional, helping to lay the groundwork for the civil rights movement.

September, 1954


Martin Luther King Jr. becomes pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.

December, 1955

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks is arrested for refusing to move to the rear of a city bus in Montgomery. King helps coordinate the yearlong Montgomery Bus Boycott.

April, 1956


In the midst of the Montgomery boycott, King speaks before 1,600 people at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel on “The Declaration of Independence and the Negro.” He states “this is a conflict between the forces of light and dark, and in the end, there will be a victory for justice and democracy because love will triumph.”

September, 1957

President Dwight D. Eisenhower orders federal troops to enforce integration of schools in Little Rock, Ark.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower orders federal troops to enforce integration of schools in Little Rock, Ark. The same month, Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first federal civil rights law to pass Congress since Reconstruction.

October, 1959

University Religious Service

King delivers a second sermon at Rockefeller Chapel, titled “Remember Who You Are,” in which he states that “every individual must take a stand against injustice and discrimination, wherever it exists.”


August, 1963

The March on Washington

More than 200,000 demonstrators join the “The March on Washington” to the Lincoln Memorial, where King delivers his “I Have a Dream” speech.

December, 1964

President Lyndon B. Johnson and MLK

King receives the Nobel Peace Prize, recognized as “the man who has never abandoned his faith in the unarmed struggle he is waging.” The same year, President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

January, 1966

King proposes Federal Aid to help the Negro family

A day after King moves into a Chicago apartment to protest the city’s poor housing conditions, he delivers a speech, titled “The Negro Family: A Challenge to National Action,” at Mandel Hall. King advocates raising and extending the minimum wage and federal aid for black families.

April, 1968


King is killed by assassin James Earl Ray outside the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., where he was helping mobilize support for sanitation workers.

Historical info courtesy of Stanford University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute

Originally published on January 9, 2012.