Alberta Williams King

Alberta Williams King

Alberta Christine Williams King (September 13 1904ndash June 30 1974) was Martin Luther King, Jr.'s mother and the wife of Martin Luther King, Sr. She played a significant role in the affairs of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where both her husband and her son preached. She was shot dead in the church six years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Early life, 1904-1926

Alberta Christine Williams was born on September 13 1904, the only daughter of Reverend Adam Daniel Williams, who was then the head of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and Jenny Celeste Parks. [ [http://www.wargs.com/other/kingml.html Ancestry of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr ] ] Williams attended high school at Spelman Seminary and obtained a teaching certificate at the Hampton Normal and Industrial Institute (now Hampton University) in 1924.

Alberta Williams met Martin L. King (then known as Michael), whose sister Woodie was boarding with her parents, shortly before leaving for Hampton. After returning from college, she announced her engagement to King at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. She worked for a short period as a teacher before the marriage on Thanksgiving Day in 1926. As female teachers were then not allowed to work while they were married, she had to give up her job as a teacher.

Family and church life, 1926-1968

After the wedding, the Kings moved in with her parents. Their first child, a daughter Willie Christine King, was born on 11 September 1927. Martin Luther King Jr. was born on 15 January 1929 while their third child Albert Daniel Williams King was born on 30 July 1930 and named after her father. During this period, Michael King changed his name to Martin Luther King, Sr.

Her father died on 21 March 1931 and Martin Luther King Sr. became the pastor at the Ebenezer Church. Alberta King became the choir director and organist. This position was a critical position in an African American church where gospel music was an integral part of proceedings. Her skills as a choir director helped to keep and recruit members to the church and soon received recognition throughout Georgia. From the age of 4, Martin Luther King Jr. would sing at the Ebenezer Church and at other musical gatherings with Alberta accompanying him on the organ. The Ebenezer Church choir performed at the premiere of "Gone with the Wind" in 1939 and Alberta King also performed at meetings of the National Baptist Convention.

Alberta King worked hard to instill self-respect into her three children. In an essay written at Crozer Seminary, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that his mother "was behind the scenes setting forth those motherly cares, the lack of which leaves a missing link in life." Martin Luther King Jr. was close to his mother throughout his life.

Alberta King's mother Jennie Williams died on 18 May 1941 of a heart attack. Martin Luther King, Jr. was so upset over his grandmother's death that he jumped from the second floor of the house. The Kings later moved to a larger yellow brick house three blocks away. Alberta King would also serve as the organizer and president of the Ebenezer Women's Committee between 1950 and 1962. By the end of this period, Martin Luther King Sr. and Jr. were joint pastors of the church.

Family tragedies, 1968-1974

Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated by escaped convict James Earl Ray on April 4, 1968 while leading a march in Memphis in support of the local sanitation workers union. He was pronounced dead one hour later. Alberta King was a source of strength after her son's assassination. Her other son, Albert Daniel King, drowned in his own pool after having become the assistant pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church.

She herself was shot and killed on June 30, 1974 by 23 year-old Marcus Wayne Chenault as she sat at the organ of the Ebenezer Baptist Church. Chenault was a deranged gunman from Ohio who stated that he shot King because "all Christians are my enemies." [ [http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/living/2002766432_jdl29.html The Seattle Times: Living: Martin King III: living up to society's expectations ] ]

Footnotes

References

* " [http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/publications/papers/vol1/Introduction_to_Volume_I.htm The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. Volume I: Called to Serve, January 1929-June 1951, (University of California Press, 1992) Introduction] "

* " [http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/publications/autobiography/ch1.htm The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Warner Book, 1998) Chapter 1 edited by Clayborne Carson] "

* " [http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/publications/papers/vol1/501122-An_Autobiography_of_Religious_Development.htm Martin Luther King, Jr., "Autobiography of Religious Development," 22 November 1950] "

External links

* [http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/about_king/encyclopedia/King_Alberta_Christine_Williams.htm Stanford University biography of Alberta King]
* [http://www.aaregistry.com/african_american_history/1706/Alberta_W_King_killed/ African American registry article on death of Alberta King]
* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=9796 Find a Grave article on Alberta King]
* [http://www.thekingcenter.org/mlk/bio.html The King Center biography of Martin Luther King Jr]


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