The 1950s: Early work of Martin Luther King Jr. Previous Gallery Next Gallery 1 / 15 AP On the 40th anniversary of his death, take a look back at the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a powerful civil rights leader who changed the face of America, one step at a time. 2 / 15 Southern Christian Leadership Conference / Handout King graduated from Morehouse College in 1948 and from Boston University in 1955. 3 / 15 Bahnsen Negative Collection/Handout While in Boston, he met Coretta Scott. They married in 1953 and would eventually have four children: Yolanda, Martin III, Dexter and Bernice. 4 / 15 Gene Herrick / AP In 1955, as the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, King was elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, the organization that was responsible for the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott from 1955 to 1956. 5 / 15 AP In February, King and 92 others were charged with violating Alabama's anti-boycott law. 6 / 15 Gene Herrick / AP King is greeted by his wife after leaving Montgomery Court. He was found guilty of conspiracy to boycott city buses but a judge suspended his $500 fine pending appeal. 7 / 15 AP While the fight for desegregation, led by King, resulted in more than a dozen Southern cities stopping the practice of segregated seating, Montgomery continued its separate seating. King is seen here, leaving a Montgomery courthouse with Rev. Ralph David Abernathy. 8 / 15 AP It wasn't until December 1956, 381 days after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, that Montgomery's buses were finally desegregated. King rode the first bus after the boycott's end. Next to him is one of his white supporters, Rev. Glenn Smiley. 9 / 15 Charles Moore King's battle with the law continued. He was arrested thirty times for his participation in civil rights activities. Here he is being charged with loitering in 1958. 10 / 15 File photo In Sept. 1958, while at a book promotion and rally in Harlem, King was stabbed in the chest by a woman later said to be mentally deranged. His family immediately came to be with him. He's seen here recuperating with is mother (left) and wife (right). 11 / 15 Tina Fineberg / AP King's words fired up a generation to work, non-violently, towards integration and peace. A copy of his sermon, titled, 'Remember Who You Are,' written in 1956. 12 / 15 AP By the late 1950s, King was leading a national movement for equality. His face had graced the cover of Time magazine, he had been to the White House and his words resounded nationally. But with that fame also came danger as numerous threats were made on his life, also endangering his family. 13 / 15 AP King (left) seen here with (from left to right) E. Frederic Morrow, White House administrative officer; President Eisenhower; A. Phillip Randolph, AFL-CIO vice president; Attorney General William Rogers and Roy Wilkins, the executive secretary of the NAACP. 14 / 15 AP The group told Eisenhower that court-ordered suspension of school integration at Little Rock, Ark., "has shocked and outraged Negro citizens and millions of their fellow Americans." 15 / 15 AP And for King, the fight for equal rights was just beginning. The sixties would serve as a climax for his life's work. Sign up for e-newsletters Want more news? Sign up for free e-newsletters to get more of AJC delivered to your inbox.