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Martin Luther King, Jr. - Political and Social Views

Morehouse College

In September 1944, Martin Luther King began his studies at Morehouse College in Atlanta, following in the footsteps of his father, Martin Luther King, Sr., and his maternal grandfather, A. D. Williams. Although King’s years at Morehouse were characterized by middling academic performance, his experiences outside the classroom set him on a path toward the ministry and the struggle for civil rights.

Meet the Press

Created for radio in 1945 by Martha Rountree and Lawrence Spivak, Meet the Press first aired on television in November 1947. Martin Luther King appeared on Meet the Press five times. Though the tone of the program was often antagonistic, King appreciated the chance to reach a national audience and had a cordial relationship with Spivak, who was the show’s producer and a permanent panelist until his retirement in 1975.

Rustin, Bayard

A close advisor to Martin Luther King and one of the most influential and effective organizers of the civil rights movement, Bayard Rustin was affectionately referred to as “Mr. March-on-Washington” by A. Philip Randolph (D’Emilio, 347). Rustin organized and led a number of protests in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, including the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. While Rustin’s homosexuality and former affiliation with the Communist Party led some to question King’s relationship with him, King recognized the importance of Rustin’s skills and dedication to the movement. In a 1960 letter, King told a colleague: “We are thoroughly committed to the method of nonviolence in our struggle and we are convinced that Bayard’s expertness and commitment in this area will be of inestimable value” (Papers 5:390).

Rothschild, Jacob Mortimer

Jacob Mortimer Rothschild was a steadfast supporter of the civil rights movement and racial equality. As a rabbi, he spread ideals of peace and unity to his Atlanta congregation, despite hostile public responses. Rothschild described Martin Luther King as a “spokesman who—like a prophet of ancient Israel—had fearlessly confronted the society of his day with its failures; had sought to rouse men to a vision of their own nobility,” and who “has earned his place as the moral leader of our social revolution” (Rothschild, 20 November 1963).

Nixon, Richard Milhous

Richard M. Nixon had a complicated relationship with Martin Luther King, Jr., and the African American freedom struggle. Although King later questioned Nixon’s sincerity, while Nixon served as vice president in the 1950s, King commented that with “persons like you occupying such important positions in our nation I am sure that we will soon emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man” (Papers 4:264).

Nationalism

Martin Luther King often criticized nationalism, whether in the guise of Adolf Hitler’s tyranny or Senator Joseph McCarthy’s attacks against un-American activities. In 1953, when King was still in graduate school, he preached a sermon against nationalism, saying, “One cannot worship this false god of nationalism and the God of christianity at the same time” (Papers 6:133).

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