MLK's name change: How Martin Luther King Jr. was born Michael King Jr. - The Washington Post

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. (1929 – 1968)

We now move on, from the holocaust and Oskar Schindler of the forties to a completely different area of the world and a different kind of history—the civil rights movement in the United States during the fifties and sixties.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister and civil rights activist, one of the most influential and inspirational African-American leaders in history.

King was born Michael Luther King in Atlanta on January 15, 1929. He was one of the three children of Martin Luther King Sr., pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, and Alberta (Williams) King. When he was about six years old, he was renamed “Martin.”

His family was deeply involved in the church, but King questioned religion. He felt uncomfortable with the emotional displays during worship. But that changed when he took a Bible class in his junior year and renewed his faith.


Martin’s mother was a school teacher. She taught him to read before he even entered school. He attended David T. Howard Elementary School in Atlanta at the age of five years old but the starting age at that time was six so he had to return the next year.

After grammar school he entered Booker T. Washington High School but skipped his first and last year there, entering Morehouse College in Atlanta at the age of fifteen. Here he came under the guidance of the College President, Benjamin E. Mays who influenced his spiritual development. Mays was a strong advocate for racial equality and encouraged King to see Christianity as a force for social change.

The church soon called to Martin Luther King, Jr. and he used its platform to begin his journey towards equality. At seventeen years old, he delivered his first public speech at the Ebenezer Church, where his father was a pastor. When he was ordained as a minister he worked closely with the senior King at the church.


This has been Part 48 of the series A Life Worth Living. Read Part 49 – Crozer Seminary.