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The story of how Michael King Jr. became Martin Luther King Jr.

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tags: Martin Luther King, African American history, holidays



Martin Luther King Jr. was born 90 years ago, on Jan. 15, 1929.

But the name on his original birth certificate — filed April 12, 1934, five years after King was born — was not Martin. Nor was it Luther. In fact, for the first years of his life, he was Michael King. And it wasn’t until he was 28 that, on July 23, 1957, his birth certificate was revised.

The name Michael was crossed out, next to which someone printed carefully in black ink: “Martin Luther, Jr.”

The story of how Michael became Martin began in 1934 when King’s father, who then was known as the Rev. Michael King or M.L. King, was senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church and a prominent minister in Atlanta. In the summer of 1934, King’s church sent him on a whirlwind trip. He traveled to Rome, Tunisia, Egypt, Jerusalem and Bethlehem before setting sail to Berlin, where he would attend a Baptist World Alliance meeting, according to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University.

The trip to Germany, historians say, had a profound effect on the elder King.

King arrived in Berlin a year after Adolf Hitler became chancellor. During his trip, the senior King toured the country where, in 1517, the German monk and theologian Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg castle church, challenging the Catholic Church. The act would lead to the Protestant Reformation, the revolution that would split Western Christianity.

Read entire article at Washington Post

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