My Grandfather was MLK’s Mentor


As we celebrate Black History Month and all the tremendous sacrifices and triumphs Black Americans have contributed to our country, my own family’s legacy of advancing civil rights always astonishes me. I’m reminded of how imperative it is for me to continue that legacy and tell our story.

Most of us have leaned on mentors to guide us and help us succeed in attaining our desired goals. Even the most successful and notable people have searched the knowledge of others and heeded their advice in hopes of mirroring their success and eventually surpassing it.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is one of the greatest men to ever walk the earth. We all know his contributions to humanity, but many of us do not know who his mentor was. Well, it was my grandfather, Rev. Dr. Theodore Judson Jemison Sr.

Before the Montgomery Bus Boycott, that received international notoriety, my grandfather organized a bus boycott in Baton Rouge, Louisiana three years earlier in 1953. The Baton Rouge bus boycott was so successful that Dr. King came down to Baton Rouge to stay with my grandfather to get the blueprint and learn the strategy of how to do it in Montgomery. King later wrote in his memoir, Stride Towards Freedom, that Jemison’s “painstaking description of the Baton Rouge experience was invaluable.” (page 75)

Aside from being incredibly proud to have a grandfather with such a rich history and leaving such a powerful mark on this world, I often think about his story and how, for the most part, it is not widely known. Many times people do not understand the impact others have played on those who finally have the big break through. There have been so many untold stories of painstaking situations that people have endured to get us closer to equality. As such, it should empower all of us to do all we can to instill confidence, wisdom, and encouragement to the next generation because you never know how your guidance and efforts can lead someone to change the world.

Together we will!