History

‘I couldn’t believe it’ – Kelvin Harrison Jr, who played MLK, stunned by the civil rights icon’s original name

Actor Kelvin Harrison Jr has disclosed that he was shocked when he learned civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. was born Michael. The civil rights activist’s name was changed when he was five years old.

“I couldn’t believe his name was Michael. Was anybody else shocked by that? I mean, that was pretty cool,” he exclaimed.

In 1934, MLK’s father, Rev. Martin Luther King Sr., visited Germany, the birthplace of Protestantism. Following the trip, he renamed himself and his 5-year-old son after the German theologian Martin Luther, citing a “much bigger purpose” for King Jr.

In 1957, King’s birth certificate was formally changed to reflect his new name. During a Q&A at the premiere of National Geographic’s Genius season four, Harrison Jr, who played King Jr., said he was gobsmacked about the revelation of the civil rights leader.

He explained that he reflected on the challenges that a young King Jr. faced in understanding the concept of purpose and why such a name was chosen for him. He considered it a pivotal and unique moment in King Jr.’s life because not many young people deal with such life-changing decisions.

The actor said the conversation between King Sr. and his son was instructive and set King Jr. on a unique path to make him more self-aware at a young age.

“Because now he’s so much more self-aware at such a young age about what everything means,” Harrison Jr. said. “What’s his relationship to everything? What’s his relationship to his identity? What’s his relationship to a higher purpose?”

“I thought it was fascinating,” the actor added.

The upcoming series will delve into the formative years, achievements, conflicting philosophies, and significant personal relationships of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

It features Harrison Jr. as King Jr. and Aaron Pierre as Malcolm X. The eight-part series will also spotlight the wives of these historical figures, Coretta Scott King (played by Weruche Opia) and Betty Shabazz (played by Jayme Lawson), portraying them as formidable equals within the Civil Rights Movement.

Genius: MLK/X” is the latest installment in National Geographic’s anthology docu-drama series, following previous seasons that explored the lives of Albert Einstein, portrayed by Geoffrey Rush, Pablo Picasso, portrayed by Antonio Banderas, and Aretha Franklin, portrayed by Cynthia Erivo. The series, which began in 2017, provides an in-depth examination of notable figures across various fields.

Stephen Nartey

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