Forgotten History: MLK’s Mom was also assassinated, and his Dad was held hostage by Samuel L. Jackson (seriously).

By Mike Moran, host of the Confessional Podcast.

The murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by James Earl Ray is rightfully remembered as one of the most tragic hate crimes in American history. But did you know that his Mother, Alberta King also was also shot and killed by a murderous bigot?

The sad day was June 30th, 1974, roughly 6 years after her son was killed. Alberta and her family were in church as usual on Sunday; the same church her son preached at years before, and just a few blocks from the cemetery where he was buried. The service had barely begun when panic broke out.

“It was like a scene from a bad movie,” daughter Christine later said.

Mrs. King had just finished playing a hymn at the organ, and the congregation all bowed their heads in prayer when mayhem erupted.

A man later identified as Marcus Wayne Chenault lept from a pew ranting things like “We must stop this!” and “You are serving a false god!” as he fired a handgun aimed at Mrs. King, but also striking Deacon Edward Boykin, and an unidentified woman.

The woman survived but the 79 year old Boykin did not. And neither did Alberta King, who was rushed to the hospital where she was soon pronounced dead.

Chenault was wrestled to the ground by bystanders while attempting to reload, yelling incessantly about “the war.” He later stated that the attack came from a hatred of Christians, and that he originally planned on killing Martin Luther King Sr., but his wife was simply closer.

He believed he had been ordained by god to commit this terrorist act, as he believed African-American Christian leaders were misleading Black America. His lawyers pled insanity and the ever-pacifist King family requested he avoid the death penalty.

Marcus Wayne Chenault died in prison of a stroke in 1995 at the age of 44.

Violence had visited the Kings far too often around this time as there was another incident involving guns in 1969, where Martin Luther King Sr. was one of the targets.

Thankfully no one was killed this time and this event went down as more of a bizarre anecdote than a tragedy, mainly because it involved future Academy Award nominated film star, Samuel L. Jackson.

Yup.

You see, before young Jackson studied acting he was heavily involved in politics while attending the traditionally African-American, Morehouse College. He was even a pallbearer for Martin Luther King jr.; himself a Morehouse alum.

Like many black Americans at the time it was, (ironically) the murder of King that led him to abandon King’s own “turn the other cheeck” doctrine, and support more extreme measures. As the King family always stayed close to Morehouse College, Martin Luther King Sr. was on the board of trustees when Jackson and other students took their more radicalized approach into action.

Jackson and company kept MLK Sr. and others locked in a room for 2 days at gunpoint, while demands were made for more black trustees, and afro-centric curriculum.

Surprisingly, the plan mostly worked; the demands were met, and the college changed its policies. But Jackson was convicted of unlawful confinement and expelled. He returned home to Atlanta where his black power interest continued to grow more extreme. “I was in that radical faction,” Jackson explained to Parade Magazine a few years ago, “We were buying guns, getting ready for armed struggle.”

Eventually, the group attracted the attention of the FBI, and Jackson’s mother urged his son to stay out of Atlanta, lest he risk death. Jackson eventually reenrolled in a forgiving Morehouse, this time in the theater department deciding, “that theater would now be my politics. It could engage people and affect the way they think. It might even change some minds.”

At least there was one happy ending for a family that experienced so much tragedy in return for their constant public service.

By Mike Moran of the Confessional Podcast:

Also by Mike Moran:

Stand up comic/Confessional Podcast/written for Skeptic Magazine, Hard Times, etc. /founder of A Support Group for Depression and Anxiety where Eat Cereal.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store