Black History Fun Fact Friday – The Forgotten Legacy of A.D. King

BLACK HISTORY

On July 20, 1969, the world watched as America walked on the moon. In Black America, something very different was happening. We were in the middle of the Harlem Cultural Festival, a series of music concerts held in Harlem, Manhattan, and New York City during the summer of 1969 to celebrate black music, culture, and black pride.

Also known as Black Woodstock, it is the subject of the Hulu documentary Summer of Soul, appropriately named and highly recommended. Some call it “The Revolution that Could Not Be Televised,” because the footage has been unseen until now.

Why hide film showing a sea of beautiful black people having fun? Nevermind. 

Also, in July of this year, Black America mourned the loss of another Civil Rights Activist. Just fifteen months after the death of Dr. King, we saw the death of his baby brother Rev. A.D. King.

Note:

In this post, I will occasionally refer to Dr. King as Martin to distinguish him from the other King. This informal approach is in no way intended to be disrespectful to either man.

Who Was A.D. King

Alfred Daniel “A.D.” King, the father of Alveda King, was born on July 30, 1930, in Atlanta, Georgia. On June 17, 1950, he married Naomi Barber, with whom he had five children.

Like his brother, A.D. graduated from Morehouse College, but he was less interested in academics. Although he eventually yielded to the calling of a pastor, he initially strongly resisted that as well. A.D.’s grassroots connections would come in handy later in life when he would help to recruit people for Civil Rights Demonstrations.

While Dr. King knew the boardroom and could maneuver his way around intellectuals, A.D. knew the streets (street smart if you will) and was responsible for organizing and strategizing many of the marches King is famous for, becoming known as a master strategist. He had a gift for leading the youth and had his ear to the ground about what the people wanted, and Martin depended on him heavily.

A.D. faced many of the same struggles as Martin and several other civil rights leaders during the 1950s and 60s, including being arrested in an October 1960 lunch counter sit-in in Atlanta. A.D. and his wife also escaped a bombing to their home.*

*Bombings were so often in the black community during that time that Birmingham had been nicknamed Bombmingham. 

Rev. A.D. and Dr. King did not only look alike, but they also sounded alike and were nicknamed “Sons of Thunder” by King. Sr.

Rev A.D. King, younger brother of Martin Luther King (first from left). Photo: Pinterest

A.D.’s personality is said to have been relaxing with a sense of humor.

Cause why he got them glasses on? Brother did not want the spotlight.

Although his activism mirrored Martin’s, A.D. did not like the limelight and had no intentions of usurping that authority from his brother. Friends and family say A.D. King was humble and was not worried about walking in his brother’s shadow. Instead, he played his part and let Martin play his. A.D. supported his brother one-hundred-percent and was in the middle of every movement:

“Not being in the limelight never seemed to affect him, but because he stayed in the background, many people never knew that he was deeply involved, too,” one of his associates was quoted as saying.” (https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/king-alfred-daniel-williams)

When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was murdered on April 4, 1968, it hurt A.D. deeply, and he never recovered, as he felt it was his responsibility to protect his brother, A.D.’s widow, Naomi King, once recalled.

On July 21, 1969, at the age of 38, a year and a half after Martin’s death, A.D. mysteriously drowned in the family swimming pool.

It is a mysterious death because A.D. King was a “very good swimmer,” according to his niece, Bernice King, Martin’s daughter. According to Derek King, A.D. King’s son, emergency workers noted there was no water in his lungs. “Ain’t no water in his lungs,” one of them said, “he was dead before he hit the water.”

You can hear these testimonies in the documentary Brother to the Dreamer on YouTube.

Why is the legacy of little-known Civil Rights icons like A.D. King important?

I am sure you’ve heard the news.

“The Texas Senate has voted to pass a bill that would remove a requirement for public school teachers to teach that the Ku Klux Klan is “morally wrong.”

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/texas-senate-passes-bill-removes-requirement-teach-ku-klux-klan-n1274610 

And also…

“The Texas Senate on Friday passed legislation that would end requirements that public schools include writings on women’s suffrage and the civil rights movement in social studies classes. Among the figures whose works would be dropped: Susan B. Anthony, Cesar Chavez, and Martin Luther King Jr., whose “I Have a Dream” speech and “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” would no longer make the curriculum cut.”

https://news.bloomberglaw.com/social-justice/texas-senate-votes-to-remove-required-lessons-on-civil-rights 

It used to be Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the only name we knew and were taught in history class. Now they are doing away with him, too, it seems.

As more is revealed about the truth of who Dr. King was beyond the “I Have A Dream” speech (including that when he was born, Martin Luther King Jr.’s name was Michael…read more about that here), it is no surprise to me that systems are now trying to limit the already limited information we have on him.

Thus, it is also no surprise little is known of his brother, although he was so prominently involved in everything Dr. King stood for. Their mother, Alberta King, was also killed.

There is definitely something strange about this.

Family matriarch Alberta Williams King is flanked by her sons, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on her right and Rev. A.D. King on her left. Isaac Newton Farris, the husband of her daughter, Christine, stands behind them. (AJC file photo) Credit: contributed

Now that you know A.D. King existed, the next time you see a photo of Dr. Martin King, also look for Rev. A.D. King. Chances are he was right there, hiding in plain sight.


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Black History Fun Fact Friday – 4 Little Known Fun Facts About Dr. King

Born Michael King

In Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was born Michael King, the second of three children born to Micheal King Sr., and Alberta Christine on January 15, 1929. Micheal Jr. was born and raised on 501 Auburn Avenue in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood, then home to some of the country’s most prominent and prosperous African Americans and now part of the MLK Birth Home Tour of the National Historical Park. The house was purchased by King’s grandfather Reverend Adam Daniel Williams, Alberta’s father, in 1909.

Michael King Sr. changed his and his son’s name to Martin after Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation, which led to a split with the Catholic Church. He did this after touring Germany and witnessing the beginnings of Nazi Germany while in Berlin (Adolf Hitler had become chancellor the year before King’s arrival), according to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford.

The Poor People’s Campaign

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., displays the poster to be used during his Poor People’s Campaign  spring and summer, March 4, 1968. King said the campaign would begin April 22 but he was murdered April 4th (AP Photo/Horace Cort)

Dr. King founded a program called The Poor People’s Campaign, a movement that “sought to bring a multiracial coalition of religious leaders, workers, and the poor together to fight poverty in a way that intentionally centered the voices of the marginalized.” Officially commencing in December 1967, Dr. King wanted to bring together poor people from across the country to demand better jobs, homes, education, and better lives. The purpose behind the campaign was to “dramatize the plight of America’s poor of all races and make very clear that they are sick and tired of waiting for a better life.”

“If you are, let’s say, from rural Mississippi and have never had medical attention, and your children are undernourished and unhealthy, you can take those little children into the Washington hospitals and stay with them there until the medical workers cope with their needs. And in showing it your children, you will have shown this country a sight that will make it stop in its busy tracks and think hard about what it has done.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Ultimately, King put together a plan that he thought would help solve poverty so that every American had a guaranteed income. Dr. King set his program to begin on April 22 but was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

Fought for Better Schools for Children in the Cabrini Green Projects

Civil Rights Museum, Lorraine Motel, 2018.

In 1966, Dr. King moved into an apartment on Chicago’s West Side as part of the Freedom Movement. He was less interested in Civil Rights by then and more interested in Human Rights, including fair housing in Northern cities. Chicago in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s was a segregated city plagued with a system of redlining that prevented blacks from purchasing property in their own communities. Not only was the rent high, but run-down apartments were divided into Kitchenettes that split six-family apartments in half, so they became one-room apartments.

“The Kitchenette is our prison, our death sentence without a trial, the new form of mob violence that assaults not only the lone individual but all of us in its ceaseless attacks.” – Richard Wright.

The Projects were the answer to the slums but did not fare much better. People eventually abandoned public housing for the suburbs, offended that blacks were “being treated as whites.” Newspapers and Ads boasted Blacks and Italians living side by side, happy and positive. The public did not have it. Riots broke out as whites pulled blacks out of their cars, beating them. Middle-class blacks were forced out as the screening process got more and more relaxed. Eventually, they put up gates, which made residents feel imprisoned. The once “promised land,” that was the newly established public housing program, became just another ghetto. Black schools also suffered.

One elementary school was overcrowded, and King fought with residents to get a racist teacher fired. “The people from Mississippi ought to come to Chicago to learn how to hate,” he said after being stoned by angry white residents in the then all-white Marquette Park on the city’s Southwest Side. When parents were in their third day of a planned strike, Dr. King met with them, saying, “Should you in any way be persecuted or prosecuted for attempting to seek the best education possible for your children, I can assure you that thousands of parents from all over the city will come to your aid and together we will join you in jail if necessary.”

Campaigned for Black Sanitation Workers in Memphis

Dr. King helped black sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, in March and April of 1968. He compared their struggle with the poor people’s campaign, saying, “A fight by capable, hard workers against dehumanization, discrimination and poverty wages in the richest country in the world.” The deaths of Echol Cole and Robert Walker brought the issue of sanitation workers into the public eye. These men were crushed to death by a trash compensation mechanism on a garbage truck that malfunctioned on February 1, 1968. Dr. Martin Luther King was in Memphis for that strike when he was murdered at the Lorraine Motel.

The deaths of these men highlighted the dangerous conditions under which these men worked. The strike brought it to the attention of Civil Rights leaders like Dr. King, who “saw the Memphis strike and the workers’ demand for union rights as embodying the goals and values of his fledgling Poor People’s Campaign.”


More fun facts about King will be featured in the Black History Facts You Didn’t Learn in School book.

For now, be sure to check out other Black History Fun Facts on the page here.