History In Action: What Martin Luther King Jr’s Descendants Are Doing Today


Photo: Getty Images

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a legendary icon in the ongoing fight against racial injustice in the United States. Even though it's been nearly 54 years since he died, his legacy continues to endure through his children and grandchild.

All of his descendants have advocated for civil rights in some way through their lives, and their advocacy has even extended to other issues. Some have lent their voice to the LGBT+ community, while others have their activism overseas. His kids have also contributed to the non-profit organization founded by their mother, Coretta Scott King: the King Center.

Here's what the children of Dr. King have been busy with recently:

Martin Luther King III

Voting Rights Activists Rally At US Capitol Building Urging Senate To Pass For The People Act

Martin Luther King III addresses a 'Let's Finish the Job for the People' rally near the U.S. Capitol on September 14, 2021, in Washington, DC. Photo: Getty Images North America

One of Martin Luther King III's notable positions was his time as the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from 1997 to 2004. SCLC was originally established as an organization focused on desegregation but now focuses on national and international human rights.

The eldest son's activism went beyond the United States. In 2010, he received the Ramakrishna Bajaj Memorial Global Award at the 26th Anniversary Global Awards of the Priyadarshni Academy in Mumbai, India. This honor recognized his contributions to the global fight for human rights.

Nowadays, King III continues his activism today and also works as a lawyer.

Rev. Bernice King

2020 Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Service

Dr. Bernice King speaks onstage during 2020 Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Service at Ebenezer Baptist Church on January 20, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo: Getty Images North America

Rev. Bernice King has many professions to her name: civil rights activist, minister, youth counselor, lawyer, peace advocate, and much more. She's the current CEO of the King Center, making her father's teachings about nonviolence a core tenet of the organization's mission. King is also the CEO of her Atlanta-based Christian consulting firm, First Kingdom Management.

Dexter Scott King

Salute to Greatness Awards Dinner 20th Anniversary Holiday Observance

Dexter Scott King (left) and Yolanda King (right) during Salute to Greatness Awards Dinner 20th Anniversary Holiday Observance at King Center in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. Photo: Getty Images

Like the rest of his family, Dexter Scott King was involved in civil rights activism. On top of his advocacy for Black Americans, King is also an animal rights activist. The second son also has an extensive background in the entertainment industry, working on movies, television specials, and records related to the civil rights movement.

He has largely remained out of the public eye after he passed the reins of the King Center onto his sister, Bernice. King still makes occasional appearances during events and speeches.

Yolanda Renee King

Voting Rights Rallies Held In Washington DC

Yolanda Renee King, speaks during “March On for Washington and Voting Rights” on the National Mall on August 28, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo: Getty Images North America

King III's daughter and the only grandchild of Martin Luth King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. Yolanda Renee King is already getting involved in activism and has been speaking on voting rights and racial disparities since she was 9 years old.

"My generation can't vote, but your vote affects us, so we have to demand that our leaders do their jobs," she said during an August 2021 speech in Washington D.C. "Marching and activism are the tools we have and we need to use them. I marched because this isn't a game."

Those We Lost

National Dream Memorial Gala

Yolanda King talks to the media at the National Dream Gala to celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial groundbreaking in Washington, DC on November 13, 2006.Photo: Getty Images North America

Yolanda King, the oldest child between King Jr. and Scott King, passed away on May 15, 2007. The late actress and human rights advocate wasn't just known for her fervent activism for Black Americans. She was a strong voice when it came to women's rights and the LGBTQ+ community, much like her mother. Her family, close friends, and peers would describe her as "quiet" person who "carried herself like a princess."

Dexter Scott King would say this about his sister soon after her death: "She gave me permission. She allowed me to give myself permission to be me."

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