Martin Luther King, Jr. is widely regarded as one of America’s greatest heroes. In the 1950s and 1960s, he fought to end laws that were discriminatory against African Americans. He worked hard to ensure that all Americans had equal rights. But did Martin Luther King Sr. heavily influence his son to become the face of the civil rights movement?
Martin Luther King Sr. was also a local leader of the civil rights movement. He served on the executive committee of The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and greatly influenced his son Martin Luther King Jr.
Who is Martin Luther King Sr.?
Martin Luther King Sr. was a Baptist Church pastor and an African-American civil rights leader. Before becoming a pastor, he stayed with Reverend A.D. Williams. Williams was the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church at the time. King then began courting Williams’ daughter, Alberta. The family encouraged him to complete his education and become a preacher as well.
After finishing high school at Bryant Preparatory School, King began preaching in several black churches in Atlanta. By 1926, King enrolled in the Morehouse School of Religion to pursue a ministerial degree. After eight years of courtship, he finally married Alberta in the Ebenezer Church on Thanksgiving Day in 1926.
In four years, the couple had three children: Willie Christine King, Martin Luther King Jr., and Alfred Daniel Williams King. After Williams died in March 1931, King took over as the Ebenezer Baptist Church pastor.
Church finances were in trouble during the Great Depression, but King organized membership and fundraising drives that helped them recover. By 1934, he had become a widely respected local church leader.
After a period of gradual transition, he also changed his name and the name of his eldest son from Michael to Martin Luther King within that same year.
For four decades, King was the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he wielded immense power in the black community and earned respect from the white community as well. He also broadcast on WAEC, an Atlanta-based religious radio station. (Source: Stanford University)
Martin Luther King Sr.: The Civil Rights Leader
King became a local Civil Rights Movement leader, serving on the executive committee of The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter in Atlanta. He also served as an officer in the Civic and Political League. During this time, he encouraged his son to become active in the movement.
In his 1950 essay, An Autobiography of Religious Development, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that his father had a significant influence on his decision to enter the ministry.
I guess the influence of my father also had a great deal to do with my going into the ministry. This is not to say that he ever spoke to me in terms of being a minister, but that my admiration for him was the great moving factor; He set forth a noble example that I didn’t mind following.Martin Luther King Jr.
(Source: Stanford University)
The Murder of Alberta King
Marcus Wayne Chenault murdered Alberta during a Sunday service at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on June 30, 1974. Chenault, a 23-year-old black man from Ohio, stood up and yelled, You are serving a false God, before firing his gun while Alberta played The Lord’s Prayer on the church organ.
When apprehended, the assassin revealed that Martin Luther King Sr. was the actual target. But he happened to be elsewhere that Sunday. After failing to see King Sr., he turned his attention to Alberta King and Rev. Edward Boykin. (Source: Atlanta Magazine)