|Dr. King (1929-1968)|
1. He was born Michael King Jr., as his prominent preacher father was born Michael King Sr. Their names were changed after a family trip to Germany in 1934 (when Jr. was five years old). His father subsequently changed both of their names to Martin Luther King in honor of Martin Luther, the German theologian who started the Protestant Reformation.
2. MLK's ancestry can be traced back to 1810 in Georgia.
3. Dr. King came from a line of preachers on both sides of his family. His maternal great-grandfather, Willis Williams, was born a slave in Greene County, Georgia but later became a farmer and minister. Adam Daniels (A.D.) Williams, his maternal grandfather who graduated from Morehouse College in 1898, was a pastor in Atlanta. Several female ancestors also attended Spelman Seminary (now Spelman College).
4. A.D. Williams (grandfather) was the first president of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP.
5. Dr. King is the descendant of slaves, sharecroppers, and farmers. However, quite a few ancestors earned college degrees at a time when few blacks (or Americans in general) did so.
6. There is confusion about where Nathan Brannum/Branham/King, cited as Dr. King's paternal great-grandfather, was born. In the 1910 U.S. Census, Dr. King's grandfather's (Jim King) father is listed as having been born in Ireland. However, in the 1880 and 1900 censuses, Nathan Brannum/Branham/King states that he was born in Georgia. Since it is assumed that Nathan King would know more where he was born than his child and because he is listed as black, genealogists generally go with Georgia as the birthplace. However, it apparently can't be confirmed whether Nathan King and Jim King had a blood relationship or a stepfather/stepson one. The National Archives doesn't list Jim King's parents at all in the family tree.
10/1 UPDATE: A Y-chromosome test done on Dr. King's son, Martin Luther King III, shows that Dr. King's patrilineal line descends from Northern Europe.
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