Remembrances of Rev. Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr.
when she worked for him on the day she was feeling especially sad about her brother who was in prison. In those days you didn’t talk about
family in prison so that you wouldn’t be judged or shamed. Rev. King asked her what was wrong and she shared her brother’s story. He talked
to her with compassion about the plight of young African American men being imprisoned for many reasons beyond their control and as another
form of slavery. She wrote about that conversation. For this great man to see her sorrow, listen to her respectfully and then take the time to
comfort her personally from the historical perspective that saying the incarceration of African American men had its roots in perpetuating
slavery, truly meant everything to her.
Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis on April 4. She was so disheartened and disturbed by the assassination of Rev. King that for years after his
death on April 4, 1968, she would not celebrate her birthday.
There were other men and women, who unknown to most of us, were close to Rev. King and his family. These people saw more than glimpses
of the real Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. One such man was Robert E. Williams, a friend, confidant and the man who helped to protect
Rev. King’s family while Rev. King traveled. Williams was also a graduate of the famous Morehouse College where he first met the man he
called “Mike,” that outsiders knew as Martin Luther King Jr. Williams was a vocalist and also came to know Coretta Scott King and the entire
King family. As a composer and conductor, he served as director of the Grambling State University Choir from 1960 -1986.
Williams wrote an unpublished memoir entitled “Mike” Martin Luther King Jr. and I, from Atlanta to Atlanta. In his book he gives insight to the
South where they both were born and grew up, but more importantly, he talks about the courage that was always present in Rev. King. Williams
wrote, “’Mike’ never felt that he was too good to die. I dare say that he explored death for others more than he did for himself. During the early
and trying days of the Montgomery Boycott, I heard him exclaim in a prayer at a mass meeting; ‘Lord, if anyone has to die for this cause of
justice, let it be me.’” Williams gives a riveting account of his friendship with Rev. King, who died before the book was completed.
His granddaughter, writer Annetta Wright, lives in Madison and has her grandfather’s manuscript, records, Christmas cards from the King family,
and other intimate correspondence that testify that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. truly was an extraordinary man with extraordinary
friends who knew, understood and loved the real him.
Only those closest to us ever get more than glimpses of our true inner selves. Ask
people what they know about the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and undoubtedly
some sort of answer will come. Rev. King is one of the best known African American
heroes. Some will even know an anecdotal story, such as when he was a boy in 1930’s
Atlanta and the white shoe store clerk wanted him and his father to go sit in the back
seats to purchase shoes, and young Martin asked his father, Reverend Martin Luther
King Sr., “why?” His father refused to buy the shoes if they had to sit in the back seats
of the store. His father’s courage and that childhood question began his son’s life long
quest to fight injustice towards African Americans.
Writer Maya Angelou met Rev. King in New York in 1960 after she was moved by one of
Rev. King’s speeches in Harlem. Along with comedienne Godfrey Cambridge, they
created the play, Cabaret for Freedom. Proceeds from the play were given to the
Southern Christian Leadership Conference, (SCLC). Maya Angelou would later work for
Rev. King as the Northern Coordinator for SCLC. She tells a poignant story of Rev. King