Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia to Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King. He was the first son and second child, between an older sister, Willie Christine King, and a younger brother, Alfred Daniel Williams King. “The Mountaintop” by Katori Hall is a play that takes place the evening before the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and runs at Performance Network Theatre in Ann Arbor from April 25 – June 2, 2013. Click here for more information!
Martin Luther King, Jr’s birth name was “Michael King”, as was his father’s until they were both unofficially changed in 1934 in honor of the great German reformer Martin Luther. It is commonly said that the name change was inspired during a trip to Germany during 1934 by Martin Luther, the German theologian who initiated the Protestant Reformation. But according to an account Martin Luther King, Sr. gave to the New York Post reporter in 1957, he had always intended for his son’s name to be Martin Luther, and the appearance of the name ‘Michael’ in his son’s birth records was a mistake due to confusion over his own name:
“I had been known as Michael Luther King or “Mike” up until I was 22…when one day my father, James Albert King, told me ‘You aren’t named Mike or Michael either. Your name is Martin Luther King. Your mother just called you Mike for short.’ I was elated to know that I had really been named for the great leader of the Protestant Reformation, but there was no way of knowing if papa had made a mistake after all. Neither of my parents could read or write and they kept no record of Negro births in our backwoods county…I gladly accepted Martin Luther King as my real name and when M.L. Was born, I proudly named him Martin Luther King, Jr. But it was not until 1934, when I was seeking my first passport…that I found out that Dr. Johnson, who delivered M.L., had listed him in the city records as Michael Luther King, Jr., because he thought that was my real name.”
No records documenting a formal name change for either King yet have been uncovered, so legally, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s name officially remained “Michael” until his death.
On June 18, 1953, Martin Luther King, Jr. married the Coretta Scott, younger daughter of Obadiah and Bernice McMurray Scott of Marion, Alabama. Four children were born to Dr. and Mrs. King: Yolanda Denise (November 17, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama), Martin Luther III (October 23, 1957 in Montgomery, Alabama), Dexter Scott (January 30, 1961in Atlanta, Georgia), and Bernice Albertine (March 28, 1963 in Atlanta, Georgia). All four children later followed in their parents’ footsteps as civil rights activists.
Coretta Scott King
Coretta Scott King played a very prominent role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, including taking part in the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955, playing an active role in advocating for civil rights legislation, and working hard to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Coretta Scott King graduated from Antioch College with a B.A in music and education, and won a scholarship to study concert singing at New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, MA. It was in Boston where she met a young theology student, Martin Luther King, Jr. They married in 1953 and she completed her degree in voice and violin at the New England Conservatory in 1954. Although the demands of raising four children and a family caused Mrs. King to retire from singing, she found another way to put her musical background to the service of the Civil Rights Movement. She conceived and performed a series of critically acclaimed Freedom Concerts, combining poetry, narration and music to tell the story of the Movement. Over the years, Mrs. King staged Freedom Concerts in some of America’s most distinguished concert venues as fundraisers. Listen to Coretta talk about her singing career here.
In the 1960s as Dr. King broadened his message and his activism to embrace causes of international peace and economic justice, Mrs. King found herself in increasing demand as a public speaker, including but not limited to becoming the first woman to deliver the Class Day address at Harvard, the first woman to preach at a statutory service in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, and a liaison to international peace and justice organizations.
After her husband’s assassination in 1968, Mrs. King reluctantly took the helm of the movement after she offered the position as leader of the Civil Rights Movement to Josephine Baker who then turned the position down. Mrs. King broadened her focus to include women’s rights, LGBT rights, economic issues, world peace, and various other causes. As early as December 1968, she called for women to “unite and form a solid block of women power to fight the three great evils of racism, poverty and war”, during a Solidarity Day speech. As the leader of the movement, Mrs. King founded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta. She served as the center’s president and CEO from its inception until she passed the reins of leadership to son Dexter Scott King in 1995. She remained active in causes for racial and economic justice, and her remaining years devoted much of her energy to AIDS education and curbing gun violence. She died in 2006 at the age of 78.
Yolanda King, the first-born child of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Coretta Scott King, was a human rights activist and actress. She was a member of the Board of Directors of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc. and was founding Director of the King center’s Cultural Affairs Program. She served as a member of several other human rights organizations. She died on May 15, 2007.
Martin Luther King III, eldest son and second child of Dr. and Coretta Scott King, is an American human rights advocate and community activist. He is currently the oldest living child of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King.
Dexter Scott King is the second son who became an actor and documentary filmmaker. He has been a dedicated vegan and animal rights activist since the late 1980s.
Bernice King, the youngest King child, is an American Baptist minister and is the only King child to have become a minister. She was the president-elect of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference starting in 2009 but then stepped down in January 2011.
Detroit actor, Brian Marable stars as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in “The Mountaintop” by Katori Hall now through June 2, 2013. Click here information!