This was the first painting that was created in the Spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. collection.
Marlena states, "It seemed most appropriate to begin this series of paintings by depicting Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. leading prayer at the pulpit of his pastoral home, Ebenezer Baptist Church. He was profoundly tied to the church from his childhood baptism to his funeral in April 1968."
His spiritual legacy with the church ran three generations deep as his maternal grandfather, Reverend Adam Daniel Williams, and his father, Reverend Martin Luther King Sr., built the church into one of the city’s most influential African American churches in Atlanta, Georgia. The church’s early work began with promoting black businesses, home ownership, and fighting for fair treatment despite the Jim Crow laws.
Martin Luther King Jr. gave his first sermon at the church in the fall of 1947, and was ordained as a minister there at the age of 19, just a few months later. Now a reverend, he became co-pastor with his father. After his death, his younger brother, Reverend Alfred Daniel Williams King, replaced him, furthering the legacy.
Ebenezer Baptist Church was elemental to the start and growth of the civil rights movement. Many early civil rights meetings where held in this church. It was where Martin Luther King Jr. along with his best friend and mentor, Ralph David Abernathy, founded the Montgomery Improvement Movement. This movement became the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which organized and carried out the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This boycott was one of the largest, most successful non-violent protests in America. It inspired a nation to begin seeking equality.
The church remained tied to the tragedy that often befell the King Family, when Martin Luther King Jr.’s mother, Alberta Williams King, was assassinated in the church along with a deacon during service while she sat at the organ ... only 6 years after her son’s death.
Background re: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist minister, and the most recognized leader of the American Civil Rights Movement until his assassination on April 4, 1968. Throughout his adult life he championed nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience as means of protest toward Civil Rights abuses, primarily of African American Citizens. His influence using these techniques carried over to poverty, segregated housing, and Vietnam war issues, and resulted in him being arrested multiple times. He was the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, (SCLC) organizing it, unsuccessfully, in a struggle against segregation in 1962 in Albany, GA. He helped organize the nonviolent protests in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. He helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
On October 14, 1964, King won the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. In 1965, he helped organize the Selma to Montgomery marches. He alienated many of his liberal allies with a 1967 speech titled "Beyond Vietnam". J. Edgar Hoover considered him a radical and made him an object of the FBI's COINTELPRO from 1963 on. FBI agents investigated him for possible communist ties, and reported on them to government officials, and on one occasion mailed King a threatening anonymous letter, which he interpreted as an attempt to make him commit suicide.
King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a holiday in numerous cities and states beginning in 1971; the holiday was enacted at the federal level by legislation signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. Hundreds of streets in the U.S. have been renamed in his honor, and a county in Washington was rededicated for him. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., was dedicated in 2011.