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.
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.
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
“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.