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The Story of Alberta King (MLK’s mom)

by Chelsea Leader Gold
 ∙ Jan 17 ∙ 5 Min Read

How did we not learn this?!

It is my firm belief that what we do here at Campowerment – create and hold space for community-minded folx to find their purpose while finding deep connection with each other – is important. In fact, I believe it has the power to change the way we live our lives, which, person by person, has the power to shape a whole new world.

That’s why on days like today – MLK Day – that are on the calendar to honor moments in history that are far more important than the work we do, my team and I grapple with how we zoom out to encourage ourselves and you – our community – to find perspective, through our lens of expansion.

In preparing to pause to honor Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today, we got distracted by another story we are extremely compelled to share with you…one we hadn’t known until a few days ago.

This is the story of Alberta King, MLK’s mom…

Direct excerpt from a 2021 article on
Alberta King committed her life to the uplift of others, including her family members, church members and larger community. She was a trained educator and musician who attended Spelman Seminary, the Hampton Normal and Industrial Institute, and Morris Brown College.

[Campowerment note: A college-educated, trained female educator of color, born in 1904!!! This alone is remarkable.]

She used her skills to tutor her husband through college, guide her children on their own educational journeys and teach hundreds of instrumentalists and singers. Although she was not allowed to teach in schools as a result of a marriage bar that prohibited some women from working after they got married, she dedicated her time outside of church and raising her family to organizations like the NAACP, the YWCA, and the International League for Justice and Freedom. Her commitments fulfilled the mission her parents passed on to her and that she knew she needed to pass on to her children.

From the very first times Martin Luther King Jr. was exposed to racism to his rise as one of the most celebrated people in world history, he always sought his mother’s wisdom and comfort. When he was a little boy, he sat with her as she explained the ugly truths of slavery and the civil war and reminded him he was as worthy of dignity as anyone.

When he went off to college, he would write his mother letters thanking her for her lessons and he would tell his classmates that she was the best mother in the world. When he began to face more danger for the work he was doing, he checked in with her constantly and reassured her that he was committed to their family’s generational cause no matter the threats waged against him. Alberta worried about her son, but she knew he was meant to bring change the world had never seen before and she could not stand in his way. Even after she tragically lost not only Martin Luther King Jr. but her second son as well, she continued to dedicate her life to the liberation of the most marginalized.

“Every now and then, I have to chuckle as I realize there are people who actually believe ML just appeared. They think he simply happened, that he appeared fully formed, without context, ready to change the world,” Martin Luther King Jr.’s sister, Christine King Farris, wrote in her memoir Through It All. “Take it from his big sister, that’s simply not the case.”

Martin Luther King Jr. was a product of his parents’, and most obviously, his mothers’ teachings and experiences. Through knowing Alberta King’s story we see how beautifully he built on the foundation that was laid for him; we better understand the power of generational knowledge and the longevity of a movement that was here long before his time and will continue long after. This MLK Day, as we celebrate the birth of one of our beloved civil rights heroes, we should also celebrate the woman who birthed him.
. . . . .
Mic drop for Alberta, and all the moms of the people of color in history who left our world better than they found it. Because no one lands on this planet fully-baked, and incredible women – moms, aunts, community leaders, educators – have the power to shape the next generation of history-shapers.

Speaking of those history-shapers, what action might YOU take today to live out MLK’s legacy: the “pursuit of…a more equal and just America?”

Said Martin Luther King III, MLK’s son, to the Washington Post, “MLK Day has always been a day on, not off. When we call for ‘no celebration without legislation,’ we’re not urging Americans not to honor this day — we’re asking people to honor Dr. King through action to protect the right to vote.”

Read more about what MLK’s family is asking Americans to do here.
(Note: this is a page of search results, so you can pick your news source and run!)

Read and share something about voting rights today, wouldya? And once you do, we’d love to hear what – learnings welcome at

From the campfire & beyond,
Chelsea and the Campowerment Crew

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Way-Fun Fact #17
Our team was founded by 3 generations of women in the Leader family, whose legacy of wisdom, savvy + tenacity bring this movement to life.