MLK in Media: A look at the magazine column contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. King addressing the crowd during the March on Washington (Francis Miller, Getty Images)

Most of us think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as solely the figurehead of the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950’s and 60’s. Though that would be correct, King did many things outside of his activism — he even ventured into journalism.

King actually penned an advice column for EBONY Magazine in 1957 and 1958 titled “Advice for Living,” which addressed mail received by the magazine’s editors calling on King for advice. Before any of his columns were published, EBONY’s sister publication ran an ad for “Advice for Living” which said, “let the man that led the Montgomery boycott lead you into happier living.” 

Courtesy of EBONY Magazine, 1958

His columns detailed advice on issues ranging from racism, marriage, success, faith, and even music. Aside from providing guidance, his columns were notable in that he opened up a window which connected a form of media with the Black, middle-class population.

Though the advice detailed in “Advice for Living” were insightful and seen as significant in normalizign the Black experience, it should be noted that some of King’s views on issues such as gender roles or sexuality may be seen as outdated today.

EBONY is a black-owned, monthly magazine publication whose mission is to shine a spotlight on the worlds of Black people in America and worldwide, showcasing the best achievements of Black individuals while highlighting the disparities the Black community face. You can view their content here.

King also wrote a biweekly column for the New York Amsterdam News, a weekly newspaper covering issues concerning the African American community–one of the four largest Black newspapers in the United States during its prime.

King’s work with the New York Amsterdam News, which lasted from 1962 to 1966, highlighted his views on a myriad of contemporary issues, typically those relating to the Civil Rights Movement.

The New York Amsterdam News contains columns written by other Black revolutionaries, like W.E.B Du Bois, Malcom X, and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. You can read their content here.

King was not only masterful in his activism and crowd-drawing — his talents spread across multiple platforms, like print media. If you’re interested in reading some of King’s columns, you can browse through them on EBONY’s site.

Sources: https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/advice-living, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/martin-luther-king-jr-the-advice-columnist/2011/08/22/gIQAqbSSeJ_story.html, https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/new-york-amsterdam-news

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