Content thumbnail Becoming King: Martin Luther King Jr.
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Prologue The history books may write it Rev. King was born in Atlanta, and then came to Montgomery, but we feel that he was born in Mont- gomery in the struggle here, and now he is moving to Atlanta for bigger responsibilities. —Member of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, November 1959 Every year in elementary school classrooms throughout the United States, teachers share heroic stories that took place in Montgomery, Alabama, during the 1950s. Young children learn about the arrest of Rosa Parks, the boycott of Montgomery city buses, and the emergence of a young Baptist preacher named Martin Luther King Jr. One doesn’t have to be a historian to know the significant role the Montgomery movement played in the emergence of a broader civil rights struggle during the 1950s and 1960s. Although historians have written countless books covering the life and career of Martin Luther King, while others have contributed dozens of studies that cover aspects of the civil rights movement in Montgom- ery, a narrative recounting the important influence of this community on 1 King’s career and civil rights leadership has yet to be written. Brave white and black activists of Montgomery had a significant im- pact on King’s leadership. Not only did a handful of courageous men and women in Montgomery spearhead a protest movement; they also nurtured, influenced, and helped launch King’s public ministry. A closer examination of the Montgomery movement reveals how a young English professor at Alabama State University (Jo Ann Robinson) and a middle- aged Pullman porter (E. D. Nixon) played a larger role in King’s civil rights leadership than a white theologian like Reinhold Niebuhr or a global leader like Mahatma Gandhi. This book demonstrates how Mont- gomery and her people provided the true birthplace of Martin Luther 2 King’s civil rights leadership. 1

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