Martin Luther King, Jr., was born Michael Luther King, Jr., on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. Born into a prominent religious family, “M.L.” or “Little Mike,” as he was called, quickly became a fixture at Ebenezer Baptist Church where his father, “Daddy” King pastored. A sensitive young boy with clear intellectual gifts, King entered Morehouse College as a 15-year old freshman. Later, in 1948, he began his matriculation at the Crozer Theological Seminary just outside of Philadelphia. It was at Crozer where King developed his precocious talents in pulpit oratory, taking nine courses in the subject. Such was his prowess that King packed the chapel and the classroom whenever he sermonized. Finishing at the top of his class at Crozer, King moved north and east to pursue his Ph.D. at Boston University in 1951.
Early the following year, King met and courted Coretta Scott, a music student at Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music. The two married on June 18, 1953. Less than a year later, King began as pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. If geography is destiny, then King’s first call was providential: in December of 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and Martin Luther King, Jr., accepted the presidency of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). Before a national audience, King would lead black Montgomery to a historic desegregation of the city’s buses. And a star was born.
King’s resumé needs but a brief gloss here. Upon founding the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, King was in demand as a speaker throughout the country. King’s star also attracted the demented. At a book signing on September 17, 1958, he was attacked by a knife-wielding, Izola Ware Curry. Had King so much as sneezed while the knife was stuck in his chest, a surgeon later told him, he could have punctured his aorta and died immediately. King’s legendary problems with the F.B.I. and its conflicted leader, J. Edgar Hoover, also commenced in the late 1950s because of his association with the communist-tainted Bayard Rustin and Stanley Levison. King returned to Atlanta in 1960 as copastor of his father’s church, Ebenezer Baptist. With the student sit-ins early in 1960, King, perhaps ironically, was finally swept into a movement he had helped to create. Rather than merely preaching about non-violence and disobedience, the student movement convinced King of the efficacy of nonviolent protest. That movement lured him from the pulpit to the streets. First in Atlanta, then in Albany, Birmingham,