MLK's Mother Was Assassinated, Too: The Forgotten Women Of Black History Month

Roundup
tags: Black History



Aurin Squire is a freelance journalist who lives in New York City. In addition to being a playwriting fellow at The Juilliard School, he has writing commissions and residencies at the Dramatists Guild of America, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, and National Black Theatre.

On June 30th, 1974, Alberta Williams King was gunned down while she played the organ for the “Lord’s Prayer” at Ebenezer Baptist Church. As a Christian civil rights activist, she was assassinated...just like her son, Martin Luther King, Jr. But most people remember only one. Until a month ago, I was one of those people.

When a friend told me about Alberta Williams King, my first reaction was “who?” This question was followed by a wave of shame. It was the same feeling I had a few years ago when I first heard about Fannie Lou Hamer. Then later came Ida B. Wells and other leaders who seemed to appear in the discussion of American history to my confused, uninformed silence. I started to suspect that I had half an education and that I had been leaving out the role of women and feminism in Black History.

I thought I was fairly well-versed in African-American history. My parents filled our shelves with the core curriculum: Up From Slavery, Letters from a Birmingham Jail, Native Son, Black Boy, Go Tell it On the Mountain, Soul on Ice, The Miseducation of the Negro, Before Columbus, and many more pieces of literature and non-fiction. I immersed myself in books, hagiography, essays, videos, encyclopedias. My extracurricular studies came from an authentic curiosity (instead of dutiful obligation) to know more about my family. Black females held the role of poetry and song: Phillis Wheatley, Maya Angelou, Gwendolyn Brooks, Nikki Giovanni, Sapphire. But as far as activism and leadership, the ranks were all-male.

“Well, we don’t study it that much because there’s no such thing.” As South Florida child attending privileged white schools, I heard this answer a lot in response to request for getting more out of February. Usually I was the only black face in the honors classes and would be the lone petitioner. By the time I was in middle school, the atmospheric ignorance didn’t invoke anger in me. Instead I became curious as to who else did not “have a history.”...




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