Young MLK’s letter to the editor revealed the man he would become

In late July 1946, the lynchings of five African-Americans in Georgia made national headlines and pricked the conscience of a Morehouse College student.

The first killing was of Maceo Snipes, an African-American World War II veteran. Snipes was killed in Taylor County, in retaliation for daring to vote in a statewide primary election. For that four white men shot him outside a relative’s home.

Martin Luther King Jr. and his sister, Christine, after their commencement ceremonies at Morehouse College and Spelman College in 1948.

Days later, two black couples, George and Mae Murray Dorsey and Roger and Dorothy Malcom, were killed by a mob at the Moore’s Ford Bridge between Monroe and Watkinsville. They were murdered after Roger Malcom had a dispute with a local white farmer. Dorsey was seven months pregnant when she was beaten and shot to death.

All of this was too much for the 17-year-old Morehouse student. He penned a letter to The Atlanta Constitution in which he called out the immorality of racism and showed a burgeoning passion for social justice. The writer also referred to the murderous tactic that had led to so many lynchings across the South: black men erroneously accused of assaulting white women. He signed the letter, “M.L. King, JR.”

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