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What’s in a name?

Becoming Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) was born Michael King Jr., after his father. Michael King Sr. was a Baptist minister and early American civil rights activist born into the sharecropping system in Jim Crow era Georgia.

In 1934, Michael King Sr. attended an international conference in Germany on Martin Luther (1483-1546), the author of Ninety-five Theses and the father of Lutheranism. King Sr. was so moved by the life and deeds of the 16th century Augustinian friar that he decided to adopt his name for both him and his son, Martin Luther King Jr.

In his life and work, Martin Luther King Jr. would go on to emanate the revolutionary and reformative ideology of the friar Martin Luther. In 1964 King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequity through nonviolent resistance. The next year, on January 20, 1965, King spoke to an audience of over 4,000 Villanova University students on desegregation and the newly instituted Civil Rights Act.

Martin Luther’s Bibliographical Legacy

Augustinian friar Martin Luther translated the Bible into German, making it more widely accessible to the laity. His vernacular German Bible helped to standardize the German language and the art of translation.

Villanova holds a copy of a collection of Luther’s writings in German (Wittenberg: 1561). This text was published in at least 5 editions between 1554-1572, a reflection of its wide popularity.

The title page image of a crucifixion scene depicts Christ flanked by a kneeling Frederick III, Elector of Saxony (left) and Martin Luther (right).




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Last Modified: February 24, 2023

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