King family name change: Michael to Martin Luther

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Did you know that Martin Luther King, Jr., was not born with the name “Martin”?

Martin Luther King, Sr., was originally named Michael King. When he welcomed his second child (and first son) in early 1929, the baby was named Michael as well.

Several years later, in 1934, Rev. Michael King — a pastor in Atlanta — traveled overseas to attend the Baptist World Alliance meeting in Berlin. While there, he “witnessed the beginnings of Nazi Germany” under Germany’s new chancellor, Adolf Hitler.

King toured much of Germany, the country that is the birthplace of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation, which led to a split with the Catholic Church.

When he returned to Atlanta, the senior King decided to change his name and his son’s from Michael to Martin Luther, after the German Protestant leader.

The name on MLK Jr.’s birth certificate wasn’t officially changed from “Michael” to “Martin Luther” until 1957, when he was 28.

Source: Clanton, Nancy. “Why Martin Luther King Jr.’s father changed their names.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution 15 Jan. 2021.

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