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29 Dec

The Often Forgotten Assassination Of Dr. King’s Mother –


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination in April 1968 by James Earl Ray is taken into account by many to be probably the most tragic events in American history. 

The killing of Dr. King  sparked protests in greater than 100 cities across the country, followed by a period of national mourning, based on history.com.

But did you understand that his mother, Mrs. Alberta King, was also murdered just six years later as she sat in church? Her death is an often-forgotten chapter within the history of the civil rights struggle.

The tragic events of that day have recently garnered way more attention following the premiere of the Showtime series The First Lady’ in April. 

The series delves into the private and political lives of three of America’s first ladies: Michelle Obama, Eleanor Roosevelt and Betty Ford. In episode one, Ford attends the funeral of Alberta King. 

On June 30, 1974, a young Black man walked into Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church and shot the mother of the late civil rights leader as she played the organ for morning services.

In accordance with The Guardian, Mrs. King, whose husband, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr., was pastor of the church on Auburn Avenue, was playing the “Lord’s Prayer” on the organ near the beginning of the service when the attack began. 

The young man, later identified as Marcus Wayne Chenault of Ohio, reportedly jumped up and screamed, “You need to stop this! I’m uninterested in all this! I’m taking up this morning.” In accordance with Atlanta magazine, he then bolted to the pulpit and pulled out a gun. 

He fired his weapon and hit Mrs. King, church deacon Edward Boykin and congregation member Jimmie Mitchell. Chenault was wrestled to the bottom by bystanders while attempting to reload, all of the while continuously yelling about “the war.”

 “He was delirious. He gave the impression to be in a fever. He said again and again, ‘The war did this to me. It’s the war,’” Mrs. King’s grandson, Derek, said.

King and Boykin were rushed to Grady Memorial hospital, where they were pronounced dead. Mrs. King was 70 years old. The attack on her and other church members is claimed to have occurred lower than 100 yards from where Dr. King, who died on the age of 39, was buried.

In accordance with the Recent York Times, Chenault told the police that his mission was to kill Rev. King, Sr., but he shot Mrs. King because she was near him. 

He claimed that “all Christians are my enemies” and that Black pastors were a threat to Black people. The Guardian  that Chenault was charged with two counts of murder, one among assault and one among carrying a concealed weapon. 

Chenault claimed insanity during his trial, but he was found guilty and sentenced to death. His sentence was later commuted to life in prison due partly to the desires of the King family’s surviving members, who were against capital punishment.

On August 3, 1995, Chenault suffered a stroke, and was taken to a hospital. He never regained consciousness, and died sixteen days later at 44. 

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