The Genealogy of Martin Luther King Jr.

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The life of civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr., has been examined almost as deeply as any of the US Presidents. His confrontation of civil rights abuses against our African American and Black communities is well documented. As today is MLK Jr. Day, a holiday that has been established to celebrate the life and his mission of equality for all, I thought that I would take a look at the contributions that his genealogy played in making him who he became. 

The Genealogy of Martin Luther King Jr.

I marvel at how much Martin Luther King Jr. was able to accomplish though patient love, concentrated will, and non-violent protest. Some may say he fought for the African American community, but he was really a force for good for all mankind. Every great man starts somewhere. We will start at the present day and work our way back from there. 

Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy has continued on through his children, Yolanda, Martin Luther III, Dexter, and Bernice. Yolanda King passed away in 2007, but during her time, she fought for the future of African-Americans and was an early supporter of LGBT rights. Martin Luther King III is still alive. He carries on his father’s name, while being an advocate for non-violence. In an interview following the recent riots in Ferguson, MO, he was quoted as saying that his MLK Jr. would be “greatly disappointed" with the violence that occurred in Ferguson after the grand jury verdict. Dexter King has been involved in some controversy with regards to family assets. However, despite this, Dexter has fought for the civil rights of all, including his support of animal rights. Bernice King has chosen a different path to honor her father’s legacy; she has gone on to be minister and has led the reformation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

A member of the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame, Coretta Scott King, passed away in 2006 at age 76. She was Dr. King’s widow and confidant. Even before the death of her husband, Corretta was engaged in the work of the Civil Rights movement; she pushed to have the Civil Rights Act of 1965 passed. Coretta Scott married Martin Luther King Jr. on June 18th, 1953. Prior to the marriage, she was a singer that started her musical career with solos in church and in school; she went on to attend the New England Conservatory of Music. She was born to Obadiah Scott and Bernice Scott on April 27th, 1927.

The assassination of Dr. King occurred on April 4th, 1968. He was struck down by a single bullet fired from a Remington Model 760. The killer most commonly believed to have completed the murder is James Earl Ray, although other conspiracy theories exist. Many White people were upset with the changing role of Black and African-Americans in society as a result of the non-violence preached by MLK Jr. The stories and history are well documented, as Dr. King felt that a peaceful approach to dignity was the best way to bring about equality.

So, where did he come from? How did he first form these opinions? Well, Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15th, 1929 to Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. and Alberta Williams King in Atlanta, Georgia. Martin Luther King Jr. picked up the importance of self-respect, self-determination, and optimism from his mother at a very early age. She taught her son that he should feel a sense of “somebodyness”; that all people are made in the image and likeness of God. Regardless of what other’s might say, it is up to you to be somebody. Martin Luther King Jr. also learned much about strength, peace, and persistence through his father, who was a minister at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. 

Alberta Williams and Rev. King were married inside Ebenezer Baptist church on Thanksgiving Day 1926. They gave birth to three lovely children, Willie Christine King, MLK Jr., and Alfred Daniel Williams King. Willie goes by her middle name Christine, and is now known as Christine King Farris. She is currently age 87 at the time of this writing, and has been active in many Civil Rights organizations. Brother Alfred passed away in 1969 from an accidental drowning.

Alberta was killed while sitting at the Ebenezer church organ on June 30, 1974 from a shots fired by a deranged lunatic that claimed, “all Christians are my enemies.” Following the deaths of both MLK Jr. and Alberta, father Martin Luther King Sr. maintained his faith in the path of peace. The Reverend King stated, “I do not hate the man who took the life of my dead son... I am not going to hate the young man who came and killed my wife. I am every man’s brother. I’m going on with my job.” After decades working for equality and civil rights, Martin Luther King Sr. succumbed to a heart attack on November 11, 1984, at age 84.

The lineage continues from there. Alberta Williams was born to Jennie Parks and Rev. Adam Daniel Williams on September 13th, 1904. Martin Luther King Sr. had been born to James King and Delia (Linsey) King on December 19th, 1899.  Adam Williams was the minister at Ebenezer Baptist Church prior to King Sr., who took over upon his death. During his life, Adam Daniel Williams liked to celebrate his birthday as January 2nd, 1863 (the day after the effective date of the Emancipation Proclimation), even though he was believed to have been born in 1861. Martin Luther King Jr.’s grandfather Rev. Williams advanced civil rights, pioneered social gospel, and founded the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP in 1917. He passed in 1931. Jennie Parks was known as “Mama” and the “First Lady” of Ebenezer church; she helped with the raising of MLK Jr. when he was very young. She passed on May 18th, 1941.

Rev. Adam Daniel Williams was born to Willis and Lucretia Williams, two former slaves from Georgia. Adam received religious guidance from Willis in childhood, as Mr. Williams was considered, “an old slavery time preacher”. Willis and Lucretia raised Adam on the William N. Williams plantation until the death of Willis in 1874. Adam struck out on his own to learn the ministry and other trades. In 1893, Adam Williams joined the Ebenezer Baptist Church as their new Reverend. Jennie Parks was born in April 1873 to a carpenter William Parks and a woman named Fannie. James Alfred King was the paternal grandfather of Dr. King. James King was born in 1864 and it is believed that he is of Irish-African descent. He married Delia Linsey on August 20, 1895, a fellow sharecropper in Georgia. James King passed in 1933 and Delia passed in 1924.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a great man, and you can see through his lineage the lessons that were passed on by his ancestors. You can also see how he taught and informed his children. He showed all of us the impact that one man can make; these impacts can echo through history.

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