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"Advice for Living"

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September 1, 1957 to December 31, 1958

With the successful conclusion of the Montgomery bus boycott in 1956 and the establishment of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference the following year, Martin Luther King became a national civil rights spokesman and his opinions, even on personal matters, attracted considerable interest. Thus, in 1957 Ebony magazine invited King to write a monthly column entitled “Advice for Living.” Responding to readers’ questions about marital infidelity, sexuality, birth control, capital punishment, atomic weapons testing, and race relations, King’s column reflected his moral and religious convictions and his thoughts on a wide range of issues.

In the summer of 1957 King accepted an invitation to write the column from Lerone Bennett, Jr., a fellow Morehouse graduate and associate editor of Ebony magazine. In the 5 September 1957 edition of Ebony’s sister publication, Jet, an advertisement for King’s forthcoming “Advice for Living” column recommended that readers “let the man that led the Montgomery boycott lead you into happier living” (Papers 4:267n). Letters immediately flooded Ebony’s mailbox, and the already busy Baptist minister began drafting responses to a range of queries. King’s advice revealed his evolving attitudes on a number of controversial issues. For example, he insisted that God did not approve of the death penalty and affirmed that “individuals marry, not races” (Papers 4:305357). Reassuring a boy who asked about his sexual feelings toward other boys, King advised seeing “a good psychiatrist” (Papers 4:348–349). King continued publishing the column until December 1958, when his doctor advised him to limit his commitments following his September 1958 stabbing.



King, “Advice for Living,” in Papers 4:267–269279–281305–307326–328348–350356–357374–376392–394401–402417–418443–445459–460471–473503–505520–522540–542.