MLK, the Advice Columnist?


Martin Luther King Jr. was just making a name for himself when Ebony magazine asked him to pen a monthly advice column. Titled "Advice for Living," King's column ran between 1957 and 1958, reports Anna Holmes in the Washington Post.

At the time, King was just starting to come to international prominence: In February 1957, he made his first appearance on the cover of Time, thanks to his leadership of the Montgomery bus boycott. He had already appeared in Ebony numerous times when the magazine’s editors, inspired — and overwhelmed — by the volume of mail addressed to King, asked him to pen an advice column. "Let the man that led the Montgomery boycott lead you into happier living," read an advertisement in Ebony’s sister publication, Jet.


"I'm surprised people haven't paid more attention" to "Advice for Living," says David Garrow, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference." "Most of King’s sermons and speeches are coming from the same mental database of biblical stories, but this column gives you a window onto the person that you don't get from reading the transcript of the sermon he gave the preceding Sunday."

In addition to proffering guidance on everything from marital strife to institutional racism, King's column was notable for what it symbolized: the mainstreaming of the black experience. As Clayborne Carson, the director of Stanford University's Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute, puts it, "Advice for Living" functioned as a sort of Kinsey Report, exposing both the distinctiveness and commonality of a population — in this case, the black middle class.

Fortunately for the rest of us, King declined to pursue a career in journalism.

Read the rest of the article at the Washington Post.