The other day I had a phone conversation with a former co-worker and business associate. This friend is an African American male who pointedly is also an active member of the Republican Party. I asked him if he knew to what political party Martin Luther King Jr. belonged. He quickly responded “Why Dr. King was a Republican.” Wow, okay so if you knew me you’d know at that moment it took a lot to allow his words to stand unchallenged. And while I said nothing this friend went on emphatically confident in the accuracy of his statement and further supported it by telling me he was told as much by his life long friend who was at Dr. King’s side through the turbulent 50s and 60s and was there on that Lorraine Hotel balcony witnessing the untimely death. So no I did not argue with my friend but me being me it would not end there. Martin Luther King, Jr. a Republican, what??? How’s that work??? I would and did satisfy my suspicions and my need to verify. I am sharing my findings here, as I believe knowledge is power, and knowledge coupled with discernment is even more powerful, it’s wisdom.
Yes there was an era when the majority of African Americans, abolitionists, freedom fighters going back to the Civil War they all would naturally be drawn to the “Lincoln Republicans.” In fact my father born nearly a half-century later in 1904 was Republican and voted for Nixon over Kennedy. Dr. King’s father, MLK, Sr., was a Republican. However by the mid twentieth century my father and most marginalized people of color, people who believed in equal rights, desegregationist, people seeking to end the American Apartheid, and the descendants of Jews who had suffered the Holocaust, all shared an ideology. They wanted to chop off the ugly head of white supremacy and to best strike that fatal blow they became members of the Democratic Party. You see by the days when Dr. King was non-violently marching for civil rights, the two major American political parties’ platforms and ideologies were dramatically shifting. Most white southern Dixiecrat democrats left the Democratic Party, a party, which by the late 50s and 60s supported and worked to bring about the equality of the races. These Dixiecrats wanted no parts of integration, they were comfortable with the South’s hierarchy that gave whites all the power. They were now aligned with the Republican Party. And former African-Americans and supporters of equality no longer were at home among republicans; they were now members of the Democratic Party.
Interestingly in the midst of all this MLK, Jr. was determined to remain hostage to neither party and never endorsed candidates but looked for leaders who supported positions that helped in freeing his people, (our people) in bringing down the oppressive dogma of a Jim Crow existence. Today Lincoln would not recognize his party and could not win a position as janitor in it. Today the words “Lincoln” and “Republican” once synonyms are now antonyms.
If my friend was at all curious having been in his late teens at the time of the March on Washington, if he were perhaps more discerning he might have questioned the validity of claiming Dr. King was a republican. At least I like to hope so. My research revealed Dr. King was nonpartisan. And all the effort, by the likes of Alveda King, King’s niece, Republican pundits like Ada Fisher, the outed fraud Pastor Mark Burns, and other obstructionist on social media, all this effort to paint King a republican, to spread a myth propagated to cloud Dr. King’s image and conform him to a position that suits their particular agendas and/or purposes is an affront to Martin Luther King’s legacy. Alternatively I have discovered the voices of author/biographer David Garrow, Martin Luther King, III and Dr. King himself all three tell a very different story regarding Dr. King’s political leanings.
Oh I get trying to claim Dr. King as one of your own, after all the man was no ordinary man, he lived the spiritual calling on his life. And in the end gave his life for the least among us, the weak, the downcast, and the indigent. His footprint can be traced around the world. And given the divisive stagnate tenure of America today, we might all be better served by embracing Dr. King’s position and not laying ourselves captive to either party but rather linking to the practices and causes that align with our principles regardless of party. Seems to me among all his degrees and titles Dr. King might best be known as prophetic.
The following is some of what I found to back up my position:—————————————-
David Garrow, who wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning biography of King, stated “It’s simply incorrect to call Dr. “King a Republican.”
King, according to Garrow, did hold some Republicans — including Richard Nixon and Nelson Rockefeller — in high regard. He also was harshly critical of Lyndon Johnson’s escalation of the Vietnam War.
In 2008, King’s son Martin Luther King III said “It is disingenuous to imply that my father was a Republican. He never endorsed any presidential candidate, and there is certainly no evidence that he ever even voted for a Republican.” Garrow claimed there is little doubt King voted for Kennedy in 1960 and Johnson in 1964
This excerpt is from an interview of Dr. King at Bennett College; Date: February 11, 1958; Location: Greensboro, N.C.; Genre: Interview
During a sermon in Atlanta one month earlier (than this interview), King revealed that he had been offered money by both political parties to rally black voters for the 1956 election: (He said quote,) “They told me they had $75,000 to spend towards obtaining the Negro vote. A large part of this money would have been set aside for my own advantage. I studied their offers long and prayed over it again and again. Then I told them I couldn’t do it. I knew it would have given me an opportunity to educate my children and would have given me my first possessions in the world, but I could not sacrifice my soul in the structure of partisan politics” (“King Warns Leaders Of Partisan Politics,” Montgomery Advertiser, 14 January 1958).
King was not a partisan and never endorsed any political candidate. In a 1958 interview, King said “I don’t think the Republican party is a party full of the almighty God nor is the Democratic party. They both have weaknesses … And I’m not inextricably bound to either party.” https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/interview-bennuett-college
“‘T’is better to sit here beside the sea,
Here on the spray-kissed beach,
In silence, that between such friends as we
Is full of deepest speech.”
Silence by Paul Laurence Dunbar