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A Biography of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

In 1966, Martin Luther King Jr. was in Miami when he had a meeting with film producer Abby Mann, who was contemplating a movie biography about King. Mann asked the 37-year-old minister how the movie should end. King replied, "It ends with me getting killed."

Throughout his civil rights career, King was painfully aware that a number of white Americans wanted to see him destroyed or even dead, but he accepted the mantle of leadership anyway, assuming its heavy burden at the young age of 26.

The 12 years the activist spent fighting first for civil rights and later against poverty changed America in profound ways and turned King into "the moral leader of the nation," in A. Philip Randolph"s words.

Martin Luther King"s Childhood

King was born on Jan. 15, 1929, to an Atlanta pastor, Michael (Mike) King, and his wife, Alberta King. Mike King"s son was named after him, but when little Mike was five, the elder King changed his name and his son"s name to Martin Luther, suggesting that both had a destiny as great as the founder of the Protestant Reformation. The Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. was a prominent pastor among African Americans in Atlanta, and his son grew up in a comfortable middle-class environment.

King Jr. was an intelligent boy who impressed his teachers with his efforts to expand his vocabulary and sharpen his speaking skills. He was a dutiful member of his father"s church, but as he grew older, he did not show much interest in following in his father"s footsteps.

On one occasion, he told a Sunday school teacher that he did not believe that Jesus Christ was ever resurrected.

King"s experience in his youth with segregation was mixed. On the one hand, King Jr. witnessed his father stand up to white policemen who called him "boy" instead of "reverend." King Sr. was a strong man who demanded the respect he was due.

But, on the other hand, King himself had been subject to a racial epithet in a downtown Atlanta store.

When he was 16, King, accompanied by a teacher, went to a small town in southern Georgia for

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