Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Who were MLK's ancestors? You might be surprised!

It may seem a strange question to some, but just who were Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s ancestors? Biographers researching the early life of Dr. King first raised the question after discovering the reverend doctor's father, Michael King (affectionately referred to as "Daddy" King), legally changed his own name and that of his five year old son to "Martin Luther" in 1934. The first biography published in 1970 after King Jr.'s assassination made the unsubstantiated claim that this was done in honor of the founder of Protestantism, Martin Luther. However, the author provided no proof of this claim. Further, Martin was Michael "Daddy" King's mother's maiden name, and Luther was the most common African American name in the United States in the early 1900's.

But if "Daddy" King didn't change the name to honor reformer Martin Luther, why would he change his name? It may have had something to do with the death of his father James Albert King less than a year earlier. James Albert King was a communist sympathizer who had been repeatedly arrested in connection with labor riots in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. J.A. King's political affiliations and run ins with the law brought unwanted attention to his children. One theory states that "Daddy" King simply wanted a fresh start for himself and his young son following the death of his infamous father.

Biographers researching this chapter in Dr. King's family history uncovered an even more surprising story researching "Daddy " King's mother, Bernice Martin. Martin was a light skinned black woman from Savannah, Georgia. She married James Albert six months before "Daddy" King was born in 1899. Her father, Samuel E. Martin, was a prominent Jewish attorney who had relocated from the North to the South during Reconstruction. Samuel Martin cohabitated with a black woman, Henrietta, in defiance of state anti-miscegenation laws, and fathered three children by her.

The ancestry of Dr. King's mother was a complete mystery. Alberta Christine Williams grew up a ward of the state of Florida. She was adopted at age 13 by a woman who claimed to be her maternal grandmother, Viola Opal Williams. There is no evidence that Viola Williams was ever married. She worked as a house keeper. Interestingly, Williams claimed to be a full-blooded Choctaw Indian, though she was described by 1910 census simply as "Negro, other".

In 2011, desiring to clarify the origins of their family, descendants of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. allowed genetic testing to be performed upon blood samples taken from the shirt Dr. King was wearing the day of his assassination. Results were not shared by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, who paid for the testing as part of a program on racial heritage in America. However, under the Freedom of Information Act, the results were released just last month, though promptly buried by the media.

According to the results, Dr. King was not predominantly African American. His genomic sequence was approximately 1/4 African, 1/4 Jewish, 1/4 Turko-Mongoloid, and 1/4 Pacific Islander, specifically of the Rapa Nui group indigenous to Easter Island.

Source: Compulsory Diversity News, Ministry of Truth

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