Does This Video Prove Martin Luther King Was a Republican?

The civil rights icon was never a vocal advocate of either major political party, both of which have evolved considerably since his lifetime.

  • Published 23 January 2019
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Claim

A video of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s niece saying he was a Republican proves he the civil rights leader was affiliated with that party.

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Origin

On 21 January 2019, the junk news site Puppet String News took advantage of the holiday commemorating the birth of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. to report an old and long-ago debunked claim that King was a Republican. Under the headline “This will trigger the Left, Video of niece of MLK surfaces proves MLK was Republican,” Puppet String News reported:

Video has surfaced today of Alveda King the niece of MLK highlighting the truth that MLK was Republican, when the Left has always claimed MLK to always be a Democrat. Once again another myth of the vile American Left is once again busted, as video of Alveda King exposes the fact that MLK was a Republican figure. MLK being a Republican Black Civil Rights leader is probably why they had MLK killed.

The piece included a video of King’s niece, Alveda King, stating, “I just want to share with you a little bit about my family and my history. My uncle Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during his lifetime was a Republican, as was my father, his brother, Rev. A. D. King, and my grandfather, Dr. Martin Luther King Sr.”:

The claim about King’s supposed Republican affiliations has been circulating online for years, to the extent that PolitiFact addressed the issue back in 2011, noting that it has been trotted out periodically as part of efforts to recruit African-American voters to the GOP. Although it remains unclear whether King was formally belonged to any political party, he was critical of both Democrats and Republicans, as the Encyclopedia Britanica pointed out in an 11 January 2019 article on the subject:

“The official answer is neither. King talked very infrequently about his personal politics and was not formally affiliated with either political party. Nor did he explicitly endorse any candidate. In fact, he stated, ‘I don’t think the Republican Party is a party full of the almighty God, nor is the Democratic Party. They both have weaknesses. And I’m not inextricably bound to either party.’ What’s more, the parties of King’s time were different from the parties we know today; policies and platforms have changed drastically over time.”

We reached out to Pulitzer Prize-winning King biographer David J. Garrow, author of Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Garrow told us that although King had a friendly relationship with then-Vice President Richard Nixon in the late 1950s, at a time when Nixon was a supporter of civil rights, King “most certainly would have voted for Lyndon Johnson in November 1964.”

In response to the same claim in 2008, King’s son Martin Luther King III told the Associated Press that it was false. “It is disingenuous to imply that my father was a Republican,” King said. “He never endorsed any presidential candidate, and there is certainly no evidence that he ever even voted for a Republican. It is even more outrageous to suggest that he would support the Republican Party of today, which has spent so much time and effort trying to suppress African American votes in Florida and many other states.”

We sent an email to the press contact listed on Alveda King’s Twitter profile seeking for more information on her statement but have not yet received a response.