When he was still in his twenties, Martin Luther King Jr. was, among other things, an advice columnist for Ebony magazine. Writer Mychal Denzel Smith studied those columns for an article this week in The Atlantic, and he found that readers asked the civil rights leader about everything from race relations to marriage problems.
In some instances Dr. King was surprisingly unorthodox — the preacher's thoughts on birth control are particularly eloquent — and in others, his advice was less than sage. When one reader complained about her philandering husband, he told her to self-reflect: "Are you careful with your grooming? Do you nag? Do you make him feel important?" When another described her husband as a "complete tyrant," self-reflection on the part of the woman was, again, the answer.
Denzel Smith joins Brooke to discuss Dr. King's mid-century masculinity, how it is still wielded as a cudgel against young black Americans, and why he thinks Americans — black and white — are due for a vacation from MLK-mania.
This segment is from our April 6, 2018 program, Paved With Good Intentions.
Any religion that professes to be concerned with the souls of men and is not concerned with the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them, and the social conditions that cripple them, is a spiritually moribund religion in need of new blood. ❧
King may have adopted this passage from Harry Emerson Fosdick’s The Hope of the World [New York: Harper & Brothers, 1933], p. 25:
“Any church that pretends to care for the souls of people but is not interested in the slums that damn them, the city government that corrupts them, the economic order that cripples them . . . that kind of church, I think, would hear again the Master’s withering words: ‘Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”’
—annotation in The Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project (okra.stanford.edu) “Address at the Religious Leaders Conference on 11 May 1959” on page 200