How MLK’s Parents Nurtured His Mind, Faith and Courage

Martin Luther King, Jr’s parents had a huge influence on his thinking and social consciousness.

“I guess the influence of my father also had a great deal to do with my going in the ministry. This is not to say that he ever spoke to me in terms of being a minister, but that my admiration for him was the great moving factor; He set forth a noble example that I didn’t mind following.” – Martin Luther King Jr

Last night I was thinking about the “Jr” in Martin Luther King Jr’s full name. It made me wonder about Martin Luther King Sr; what kind of man was he? And what about Alberta Williams King, Dr. King’s mother? It turns out that both of MLK’s parents had a huge influence on his thinking and social consciousness.

Martin Luther King Sr. was a major figure in the civil rights movement in Georgia. He was also a prominent pastor and a civic leader in Atlanta. King, Jr. wrote that dinner discussions in their household often included political matters. He also remembered seeing his father commit personal acts of political dissent.

King Jr. recounted that his father sent him to work in the fields to gain a healthier respect for his ancestors.

MLK’s parents were generally supportive of his leadership in the civil rights movement, though they were also very concerned about his safety.

Martin Luther King Jr. was always close to his mother, Alberta Williams King. She was a driving force in the church and with her family. She practiced a less stern yet still effective approach to parenting than her husband. In the short video below, you can hear Dr. King talk about how his mother instilled him with a sense of dignity and “somebodyness.”


From Michael King to Martin Luther King [stag_icon icon=”share” url=”” size=”16px” new_window=”no”]

An Autobiography of Religious Development – a 1950 essay where MLK writes at length about his parents, grandparents and family life. [stag_icon icon=”share” url=”” size=”16px” new_window=”no”]