This Was Martin Luther King Jr.’s Original Name On His Birth Certificate

MLK Jr. would have turned 90 this month.

As we celebrate the life of the great Martin Luther King Jr., new details about the civil rights leader’s name change have come to light.

King’s birth certificate, filed five years after he was born, shows neither Martin or Luther listed as names on the document. It wasn’t until the summer of 1957 that King officially revised his birth certificate.

On July 23, 1959 “Michael King” became, legally, Martin Luther King Jr.

King’s father, also named Michael King and sometimes known as M.L. King, traveled to Europe in the 1930s. While King Sr. was in Germany, he was taken aback by Hitler’s uprising and the discrimination he witness against the Jews and people of color.

While in Germany, King Sr. toured the country where Martin Luther famously posted his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg castle church, challenging the Catholic Church.

Returning to America, King Sr. was a changed man, Clayborne Carson, director of the King Institute says, and it was sometime this year that the senior King changed his name from Michael to Martin Luther. He gave the same name change to his son.

“It was a big deal for him to go there, to the birthplace of Protestantism,” Carson explained. “That probably implanted the idea of changing his name to Martin Luther King.”

MLK Jr. once signed a 1948 letter to his mother with “M.L.” By the 1950’s he was signing letters to future wife as Martin. On April 3, 1968, in a speech, the civil rights leader referred to himself as “Martin Luther King.”

The next evening Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.

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