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Martin Luther King, Jr. - Family

Social Gospel

In an 18 July 1952 letter, Martin Luther King wrote to his future wife, Coretta Scott, about his beliefs as a minister and proclaimed: “Let us continue to hope, work, and pray that in the future we will live to see a warless world, a better distribution of wealth, and a brotherhood that transcends race or color. This is the gospel that I will preach to the world” (Papers 6:126). As a self-described “advocator of the social gospel,” King’s theology was concerned “with the whole man, not only his soul but his body, not only his spiritual well-being, but his material well-being” (Papers 6:72; Papers 5:422). His ministry built upon the social gospel of the Protestant church at the turn of the twentieth century and his own family’s practice of preaching on the social conditions of parishioners.

Nkrumah, Kwame

The first African-born Prime Minister of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah was a prominent Pan-African organizer whose radical vision and bold leadership helped lead Ghana to independence in 1957. Nkrumah served as an inspiration to Martin Luther King, who often looked to Nkrumah’s leadership as an example of nonviolent activism. The evolution of Nkrumah’s power in Ghana, however, complicated relations between the two men. Just days after King’s assassination, Nkrumah expressed disagreement with King’s views on nonviolence.

Family History of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Even after becoming a civil rights leader and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, in the “quiet recesses” of his heart Martin Luther King, Jr., remained a Baptist preacher. “This is my being and my heritage,” he once explained, “for I am also the son of a Baptist preacher, the grandson of a Baptist preacher and the great-grandson of a Baptist preacher” (King, “The Un-Christian Christian”). The tightly knit extended family in which King, Jr., was raised had a profound influence on his worldview. “It is quite easy for me to think of a God of love mainly because I grew up in a family where love was central and where lovely relationships were ever present” (Papers 1:360).

King delivers "Paul's Letter to American Christians" before National Baptist Convention in Denver; Coretta Scott King and Alberta Williams King perform

King preaches at the seventy-sixth annual National Baptist Convention meeting in Denver on “Paul’s Letter to American Christians.” Coretta Scott King sings and Alberta Williams King plays the organ at the convention.


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