Nearly 54 years since civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, his words still resound across our nation and his legacy has influenced millions.
If alive today, how would King encourage us to tackle the renewed racial tensions America faces? And what would he have to say about divisive ideologies such as critical race theory?
As an ordained Baptist pastor and firm believer in Jesus Christ, King would oppose critical race theory because it “was socially engineered by Marxists and socialists, by people who don’t believe in God,” says Alveda King, one of his nieces.
Her uncle’s message to the nation would remain centered on the Gospel of Christ because his desire was to see America “serve God [and] serve others,” Alveda King says.
King, a pro-life leader who is founder of Speak for Life, joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to reflect on her uncle’s legacy and address some of the greatest issues facing America today.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Virginia Allen: Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It is my distinct privilege today to welcome to our show Dr. King’s niece, Dr. Alveda King. Alveda King is an author, a proud pro-life leader, and the founder of Speak for Life. Dr. Alveda King, welcome to the show.
Alveda King: Thank you, Virginia. Hello, everyone.
Allen: It has been [almost 54 years] since your uncle’s death. How do you think America is doing in our effort to accomplish the vision that Dr. King set forth for all of us in his “I Have a Dream” speech?
King: I believe that if the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were here right now, he would encourage us to continue to learn to live together as brothers–and I’ll add in sisters–or perish together as fools.
Now … my daddy was his brother, or is his brother. They live in heaven. I like to see it that way. And Rev. Alfred Daniel Williams King, he was a preacher [and] civil rights leader along with his brother, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Now, what many people do not understand is that, first, Martin Luther King Jr. loved God. He wasn’t perfect, and no human beings are. He loved God.
So I believe if he were here today, he would say to us, in the face of everything that we are encountering—whether it be COVID, or race wars, or horrible things happening to the weather, calamities, and disaster—I believe he would ask us to look forward in this new year with faith, with hope, with love.
He would say, “Fear not.” And this is what I know of him, the man, when he was alive here on the earth and I was born and growing up. I was a young woman when he passed away. And at that time, I married the next year.
So I saw my uncle, along with my dad, my granddad, many of us–I was a youth organizer at the time–face all of the evils with the light of truth and the love of God. … People always say, “What would he do  years later?” He would encourage us to love the Lord.
Allen: Growing up, were there any stories that, as your family gathers together now, that you often tell about your uncle? What are some of those family stories that have been passed down?
King: One of my favorite stories belongs to my mother, Mrs. Naomi Ruth Barber King. And she’s a civil rights leader in her own right. She’s still living. She’s 90 years old.
However, in the 1950s, evangelist Billy Graham was preaching all over the world and we had much segregation in America. So that segregation caused church services to be such that only one ethnic group would attend this church service, and across town one ethnic group would attend that church service. And all of that was going on.
Evangelist Graham said: “I’m not going to have any of those racist church services anymore. I’m going to invite this young man to minister with me, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” So here the evangelist and the preacher come together, [in] Times Square, New York, around 1958 or so, and they actually ministered together.
Now, as I tell that, you may say, “Well, then what happened?” Just a few years later [my uncle] said in the Letter From Birmingham Jail , “The most segregated hour in America is on Sunday at 11 o’clock.” Well, racism didn’t break, but that standard was raised by those two men.
During that time, my uncle was also stabbed in the chest by a woman with a letter opener, an African American woman, because she didn’t understand, didn’t agree with his message. She was demented. And it is recorded, written, that my uncle looked at her with compassion in his eyes … while the weapon was in his chest, and he says, “What’s wrong?”
They get my uncle to the hospital. The surgeon says if he had sneezed, he would have died. They removed it. And so children wrote him, little schoolchildren: “I’m so glad you didn’t sneeze.”
Now, here’s the story. My mother was talking to him on the phone, because we were a very close family and Daddy and Uncle M.L. being brothers and all of that.
“M.L., are you OK?”
“Well, if I had sneezed, I wouldn’t be here.”
“Well, I’m so glad you didn’t sneeze.”
Then he says, “Hey, Naomi”—as a matter of fact, they called her Nini—”would you send me one of those sweet potato pies you make when Cori”—he called Aunt Coretta “Cori”—”when she comes up to see me?”
Mother cooked that pie, got it on the airplane. He calls back a few hours later. The pie is still warm and he’s enjoying the pie. Now, that’s a real family story. Yeah.
Allen: I love that. The power of pie. Wow. What a beautiful story and powerful. Thank you so much for sharing that. So for you, as a young woman watching your uncle, what was going through your head in your teens and early 20s as you’re seeing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. really lead the country forward? Are you at that time thinking, “Wow, I want to be a part of this. I want to do what he’s doing?”
King: I was actually a part of it. Our home in 1963 was bombed. That’s the home of A.D. and Naomi King. It was a church parsonage.
Uncle M.L., Martin Luther King Jr., was supposed to spend the night in our guest room, but it was almost like God spoke to him and said, “Get up out of Birmingham.” So that same night, my uncle left the city.
All the places he would’ve stayed were bombed. The home of an attorney, the home of his brother, and [a room] of the A.G. Gaston Motel.
My daddy took me to marches with my brothers, the youth march, the children’s march, etc. When our home was bombed, the night before Mother’s Day, we were in the home.
So I became a youth organizer. Not only did I have a chance to observe my very famous uncle, supported by many–my daddy and many–I became a part of that movement as well.
But I always would just peep and look around and try to understand what was going on. Was it real? Was what he was preaching real? Because I was able to go to church and hear his sermons as well, and I would say, “He’s preaching about love, but these people are trying to kill him.”
And so, as I observed and watched, saw him live that life; his father Daddy King talked about the least of these. My daddy, his brother, the miracles of Christ … the love of God being the most forceful answer in the universe.
So I grew up with that message. It has been challenged in my life many, many, many times. It’s being challenged right now in the 21st century, here in . I’ve lost people to COVID. Many of us have been impacted by COVID. I guess I could even ask who hasn’t been, really.
But we remember that we should fear not. We should not fight each other. We should fight to live. We shouldn’t have arguments about who took a shot, who didn’t take a shot—”Why did you take it?” “Why didn’t you take it?” “What color is your skin?” “My race is better than yours”—when the Bible is very clear [in] Acts 17:26. And Martin Luther King Jr. wrote the same truth that we got one blood, one race.
In his own lifetime he spoke that. He taught Acts 17:26. It led him to say, “We must learn to live together as brothers”—and I’ll add in sisters—”or perish together as fools.” He didn’t say “neighbors, cousins, friends.” He said “brothers.”
Allen: And that message is one of the most important that needs to be spoken right now, needs to be shouted from the rooftops. You were talking about what we’re facing today … and one of the things that we have talked a lot about on this podcast is critical race theory. You have been very vocal in your opposition to critical race theory. Why?
King: I am so glad to explain why I oppose critical race theory. The problem that we have had—prior to an election in Virginia, when parents said, “Nope, we’re going to stand up. We’re not going to teach hate and division”— the way that critical race theory was being presented at the time is that, “Oh, we just need to teach critical race theory and if you don’t teach it, you’re a racist.” Throw that comment out with no explanation as to what critical race theory is [that] causes division.
And so I said, “Wait a minute, wait a minute. Yeah, let’s teach critical race theory, but let’s teach what it is, that it was socially engineered by Marxists and socialists, by people who don’t believe in God.”
The evolutionist Charles Darwin said that there was a superior race of humans and everybody else’s brain was smaller and they were inferior and black people were on the low end of the feeding chains. Teach that.
Teach that there was a science, a philosophy, that divided the human race, the one-blood human race, according to skin color and attempted to make one ethnic group superior; write that in your history books.
And the more we began to say that, you realize then that those who were supporting teaching critical race theory, all of a sudden, [say,]”Oh no, we didn’t come up with that. That’s not our idea.”
Because they don’t want us to know. And when I say “they,” it has nothing to do with skin color. It has to do with heart attitude, because you know there’s one blood, one human race. Skin color should not divide us. It’s just ethnicity that should be celebrated.
Allen: Yeah. So if Dr. Martin Luther King would’ve opposed critical race theory, then what do you think his response would be for us today? What would he be advocating that we teach in the schools and how would he be directing us to respond to this moment in history when we are seeing race be a real issue?
King: I believe I don’t even have to speculate on what Martin Luther King Jr. would say, because he said it during his lifetime. He wrote it, he said it, he spoke it. And he talked about a day when there would be no white power, no black power, only God power working in human power.
And he very clearly wrote that, stated it. He taught Acts 17:26, that we are one blood. And that’s the explanation on how you live together as brothers and sisters, because you accept each other as one human race.
So this is not a new concept. It’s been in Acts 17:26 for thousands of years now. He taught that during his lifetime. This is not new. So I never have to say, “What would Martin Luther King Jr. say?” any more than I have to say, “What would Abraham Lincoln say?” or, “[What would] Frederick Douglass say?”
All we have to do is to read their own messages. And you know, Uncle M.L. lived in a time that was modern enough to let us hear his speeches as well.
Allen: Yeah. That is a blessing. That really is. Now, we are at the beginning of a new year, 2022. What do you think is the biggest issue facing our nation this year?
King: Fear is the biggest issue facing America and all around the world today. When we fear, we shut ourselves in, we shut ourselves away from love, from communication. When we fear, we are not in faith and therefore our connection with God is not as clear as it could be.
God will never forget us, never leave us or forsake us. Jesus promised that. But fear will divide us and cause us to perish. Lack of knowledge, our people perish for lack of knowledge. So that is a message that I just have to keep giving us: Fear not. Fight to live. Don’t fight each other. That’s just so important.
And love each other. Love covers a multitude of sins.
Allen: On one of the issues that you have been so vocal on … is the issue of abortion. You are a leader, a strong leader, and have been for decades in the pro-life movement. What were Dr. King’s views on abortion?
King: Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The Negro cannot win if he’s willing to sacrifice the futures of his children for immediate personal comfort and safety.”
Now, abortions occur for reasons of personal comfort and safety. Some people feel threatened. Some people feel that they won’t be able to live or eat or finish school, or they’re not happy in a relationship. So all of these factors sometimes cause people to abort their children.
In that process, we have gone into a position of fear and doubt rather than embracing life from the womb to the tomb. Martin Luther King Jr. explained that in that statement. He also said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
And so, I often ask the question … I say, a woman has a right to choose what she does with her body. The baby is not her body. Where’s the lawyer for the baby? How can the dream survive if we murder our children?
I had abortions without that understanding myself. I repented. God has forgiven me. I’ve been healed. And I have a voice now to explain these truths to others.
Allen: And of course, this year, it’s critical that we really be speaking out on the life issue, talking about the importance and the beauty of life, because, as we know, in December the Supreme Court heard arguments [in] a case, the Dobbs case, that could overturn Roe v. Wade. And probably this summer we’re going to learn the Supreme Court’s decision. So, as you look forward and think about the pro-life movement right now, what is your message to the pro-life movement?
King: As we in America pray and repent—I even have a book, “America Return to God” along with the book “We’re Not Colorblind“—we see as we are praying [that] prayer is changing us. And as we change, the tide turns, as in the Dobbs case, which could send the issue of abortion back to the states. We see the heartbeat bills that are passing, Texas being an example.
So our responsibility as individuals, and then those of us with a platform, we can take it even further and broadcast it more clearly across more frequencies. But we have to pray, repent, ask God to forgive us for our sins, which include abortion, absolutely. And then once we are forgiven, to begin to tell and proclaim the truth to others.
So individually, here in America, and as we say on Martin Luther King Day, it’s a time to stop—a day on and not a day off—serve God, serve others. And as we are serving, remember the little babies in the womb, remember the poor, the sick, the elderly. Don’t even leave out the wealthy. People need the Lord.
And as we proclaim lives and liberty in that pursuit for happiness, as we love God and repent for our sins, then we can look further into this year, 2022, with hope, not fear, and we can learn to love each other as brothers and sisters and not perish as fools.
Allen: How can our listeners follow your work and the work of Speak for Life?
King: Speakforlife.org. Alvedaking.com. And I’m also the chairman of the Center for the American Dream with the America First Policy Institute. And if you don’t mind, I’d like to also mention that I have a show on Fox Nation called “Alveda King’s House.” We nourish the spirit, the soul, and the body.
Allen: Excellent. Dr. Alveda King, thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate it.
King: Thank you very much. Happy New Year.
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