Each person on this earth has a path that formed who they are today and who they will be tomorrow. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s path was to be known worldwide and his message of nonviolent protest with progression based on the transformation of human ideology would live on forever. But Dr. King, like any other human, learned like the rest of us and was just as vulnerable through trial and errors of life. At age 12, a young & passionate Michael King (that was his birth name before his father changed it to Martin Luther in 1930), jumped out of a second story window at his parents Auburn Avenue home; he had learned that his grandmother passed while he was out at a parade (with no permission). King weeped for days and was depressed behind his grandmother’s passing.
With a bigger purpose ahead, he survived. King became a star student in high school, graduating at age 15. But once he got to Morehouse College, he only saw one ‘A’ – a lot of ‘B’s’ – and even got a ‘C’ in public speaking. In 1944, a chance to work in a non-segregated society in Connecticut changed him forever. The young HBCU student saw that an integrated society was possible. The impact of returning to a Jim Crow south after seeing what he saw in Connecticut formed his life’s path. King saw a larger vision beyond the grades, did what he had to do in school, and graduated valedictorian from Crozer Seminary.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, GA. He was born Michael King Jr., after his father. Once his father completed a pilgrimage in which he was taught the ways of Martin Luther the protestant, he changed his name and thus changed his son’s name to Martin Luther King Jr. He and his siblings, A.D. King and Christine King Farris, were taught among the followers of Ebenezer Baptist Church, their father’s church, in Atlanta. Then 10 years old, Junior was part of the church choir, which included performances at unique engagements like the “Gone With the Wind” premiere. While the boys choir performed for the stars, the black actresses in the performance (Hattie McDaniel and Butterfly McQueen) were not allowed to attend.
Dr. King’s work in the movement led to the creation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957 by himself and other influential preachers. He became a target of the FBI, who added Dr. King to their counterintelligence program, named COINTELPRO. The FBI’s papers and intentions with Dr. King are under protection of the bureau until the year 2027.
Later arrested over 30 time for the cause, Dr. King’s national legacy is attributed to Rosa Parks, whose bus case pushed Dr. King’s work nationwide. When he showed up in protest leading to the Montgomery Bus Boycotts, word spread of the fearless and dynamic leader who fought with his mind and education, not his hands or with weaponry.
On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot by James Earl Ray on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN. Only minutes before, he had asked musician Ben Branch to play “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” at their meeting that evening. Only a year after Dr. King was assassinated, his brother, A.D. King, also a beloved preacher and activist, was found at the bottom of a swimming pool. King’s mother, Alberta King, was killed at church on June 30, 1974 by Marcus Wayne Chenault, an insane black man.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is still the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. He is still a Grammy winner, an author of 3 novels and 80,000 papers. He is still Time magazine’s first black Man of the Year and now looks over the nation in which he gave his life through his historic statue on the national mall.