Was Martin Luther King Jr. A Republican? The Truth Will Make Conservatives Freak Out

Conservatives and Republicans love to claim that Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of their own. They claim that the legendary clergyman and civil rights icon was a Republican, and sometimes even claim that he was a conservative.

This is a lie.

Dr. King had harsh words for both parties:

Actually, the Negro has been betrayed by both the Republican and the Democratic party. The Democrats have betrayed him by capitulating to the whims and caprices of the Southern Dixiecrats. The Republicans have betrayed him by capitulating to the blatant hypocrisy of reactionary right wing northern Republicans. And this coalition of southern Dixiecrats and right wing reactionary northern Republicans defeats every bill and every move towards liberal legislation in the area of civil rights.” [The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr: Symbol of the Movement, January 1957 – December 1958. University of California Press. p. 84]

But he said in an October 1956 letter to a civil rights supporter that he had “always voted the Democratic ticket.”

And in his autobiography, Dr. King said he voted for John F. Kennedy in 1960 because he “felt that Kennedy would make the best president.” He also wrote that “had President Kennedy lived, I would probably have endorsed him in 1964.”

As far as the Republican Party, Dr. King specifically attacked them for their hard turn to the right in 1964 with the nomination of conservative Barry Goldwater. King said that the party had begun pandering to racist elements, and as a result, he could not support Goldwater in the election versus sitting President Lyndon Johnson:

The Republican Party geared its appeal and program to racism, reaction, and extremism. All people of goodwill viewed with alarm and concern the frenzied wedding at the Cow Palace of the KKK with the radical right.

While not himself a racist, Mr. Goldwater articulated a philosophy which gave aid and comfort to the racist. His candidacy and philosophy would serve as an umbrella under which extremists of all stripes would stand. In the light of these facts and because of my love for America, I had no alternative but to urge every Negro and white person of goodwill to vote against Mr. Goldwater and to withdraw support from any Republican candidate that did not publicly disassociate himself from Senator Goldwater and his philosophy. [The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.]

Similarly, the right’s claim that Dr. King was a conservative is laughable. King was well to the left of even the Democratic Party, and opposed the party on key issues like the Vietnam War, to which King objected. King was also a big supporter of an increased minimum wage as well was worker’s rights like unionization. Does that sound like a conservative?

Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most effective and dynamic leaders in American history. He was not a Republican, supported Democratic presidential candidates, and was a strong liberal on a host of key issues. Too often King is depicted as sort of a black Santa Claus, devoid of politics and ideology. But that isn’t the true King. He was a man of the left, and he succeeded because of that political leaning combined with his faith and the hard work of millions committed to progress.

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