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Mrs. Martin Luther King, Sr. was shot and killed Sunday while playing the organ at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where her late son preached, June 30, 1974
Vintage wire photograph with applied pigment on paper
9 5/16 x 7 in. (23.65 x 17.78 cm)

Creation Place: North America
Technique: Photography
Credit Line: Restricted gift of Michael Mattis and Judy Hochberg in honor of Myrlie Evers-Williams.
Accession Number: P2021.13.1

Where Mrs. King Shot: Mrs. Martin Luther King, Sr., mother of the slain Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot and killed Sunday while playing the organ (foreground) in the church where her late son preached. Her husband, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr. is pastor of the church. A man was also killed and another woman injured. In background, police search for clues in the slaying, Atlanta, Georgia.

Alberta Christine Williams King (1904-1974) was Martin Luther King, Jr.'s mother and the wife of Martin Luther King, Sr. She played a significant role in the affairs of the Ebenezer Baptist Church. King was shot and killed on June 30, 1974, at age 69. Her killer, Marcus Wayne Chenault, a 23-year-old black man from Ohio, fired two handguns at her as she sat at the organ of the Ebenezer Baptist Church. Chenault stated that he shot King because "all Christians are my enemies." He claimed that he had decided that black ministers were a menace to black people. He said his original target had been Martin Luther King, Sr., but he had decided to shoot his wife instead because she was close to him. One of the church's deacons, Edward Boykin, was also killed in the attack, and a woman was wounded. Alberta King was interred at the South View Cemetery in Atlanta. Martin Luther King, Sr. died of a heart attack on November 11, 1984, at age 84. He was interred next to his wife. Chenault was sentenced to death. Although this sentence was upheld on appeal, Chenault was later resentenced to life in prison, partially as a result of the King family's opposition to the death penalty. On August 3, 1995, he suffered a stroke and was taken to a hospital. Chenault died there of complications from his stroke on August 19, at age 44.

On recto: typewritten title and date.
On verso: typewritten title, date stamp and newspaper caption affixed.

Wire photographs were originally transmitted over phonelines, then later, by satellite. They were first used in the early 1920s. Associated Press became a leader with this. After pigment touch-ups, etc., the print is put into a drum (like a drum scanner). The image gets converted into audio tones that are transmitted. The tones are received and beamed onto photo-sensitive paper. Wire photographs are copies without originals---they are hybrid, transmitted objects. (Britt Salvesen, Curator and Department Head, Photography Department, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, March 30-31, 2022)

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  • Image Dimensions: 9 5/16 x 7 in. (23.65 x 17.78 cm) Measured by Cornejo-Reynoso, Aitzin
  • Sheet Dimensions: 10 x 8 3/16 in. (25.4 x 20.8 cm) Measured by Cornejo-Reynoso, Aitzin

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