Beginning his career of activism as Du Bois was nearing the end of his, Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the most influential civil rights leaders of the 1950s and 1960s in America. A Baptist minister, King led the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 and was a founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957. While the two men had little direct contact, Du Bois admired his activism early in the 1950s, referring to King as the American Gandhi in 1958. A year later, however, Du Bois recanted after growing disappointed by King’s lack of an economic agenda.
Even though Du Bois and King differed on many points, Du Bois finally handed over leadership of the civil rights movement–at least symbolically–to King on August 27, 1963, when he died at the age of 95 in Accra, Ghana. Du Bois’s death coincided with the eve of the March on Washington, where King led more than 200,000 demonstrators to the Lincoln monument in Washington, D.C. and delivered his historic “I Have a Dream “speech. Five years later, Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.