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Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. receives his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo in 1964.

Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

He had a dream, and he didn't write it off as a fanciful midnight vision. Instead, Martin Luther King, Jr. pursued his dream in full daylight and in the face of scorn and cynicism. He paid for it with his life.

In a country riven by racial discrimination and a legacy of slavery, King promoted equality and freedom for everyone. Furthermore, he pressed his agenda without a call for arms. Instead, he touted non-violent demonstrations and activism.

It all began with a famous flashpoint. In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white person in Montgomery, Ala. This incident led to a successful 382-day bus boycott led by King, and it cemented his role as a leader for blacks in the United States.

After the boycott, and in the face of government and cultural intimidation, he hit the road to spread his message, speaking more than 2,500 times and traveling more than 6 million miles. Eventually, his means subverted a deeply rooted culture of discrimination. In doing so, he won the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize and was the youngest winner ever at the tender age of 35.

King was assassinated in 1968, but his legacy has inspired freedom-loving people all over the world.

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