Martin Luther King, Jr. was born at noon Tuesday, January 15, 1929, at his home in Atlanta, Georgia. He was first named Michael Luther King Jr., and later changed his name to Martin, after his father. He was the first son and second child born to the reverend Martin Luther King, Sr., and Alberta Williams King, a schoolteacher.
Growing up as an African American in Georgia, Martin experienced and suffered discrimination throughout his boyhood. This discrimination against black people was cruel and demoralizing. Martin Luther King Jr. told once of an experience he had riding a bus with his schoolteacher from Macon to Atlanta, “the driver started cursing us out and calling us black sons of bitches. I decided not to move at all, but my teacher pointed out that we must obey the law. So we got up and stood in the aisle the whole 90 miles to Atlanta. It was a night I’ll never forget. I don’t think I have ever been so deeply angry in my life.”
There were many discriminatory laws in the South. They had certain restaurants that they were allowed to eat in, separate water-fountains, separate bathrooms. Just about everything you can think of was segregated. One of his first experiences was with the curtains that were used on the dining cars of trains to separate the whites from the blacks. This incident struck King pretty hard, he said, “I felt just it as if a curtain had come down across my whole life. The insult of it I will never forget.”
King was an extremely bright student and skipped right through his high school years and entered Atlanta’s Negro Morehouse College at age 15. His father encouraged him to study ministry, while he had his heart set on medicine or law. King was embarrassed of his own religion. He didn’t understand what all the shouting and stamping was all about. But after reading and rereading Thoreau’s essay, “Civil Disobedience,” he came to the conclusion that the only way he could bring about his ideas on social protest was through ministry.
At Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, King studied the writings and teachings of many philosophers, such as Hegel and Kant, but the person that impressed him the most was Mohandas Gandhi, and his beliefs in a nonviolent protest.
On June 18, 1953, King marries Coretta Scott,.a young girl from Marion, Alabama. The marriage ceremony took place on the lawn of the Scott’s home in Marion. The reverend King, Sr., performed the service, with only a few attending. The Kings will go on to have four children, Yolanda Denise King, Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott King, and Bernice Albertine King.