Alveda King: Martin Luther King's inspiring message to a nation plagued by violence, injustice, discord

Remembering Martin Luther King Jr.

Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King Jr., reflects on his legacy on ‘Fox and Friends Weekend.’

People often ask what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would say today. No need to second guess. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” 

Surely, the violence at the U.S. Capitol would have broken his heart, as would the partisan witch hunts that seem to multiply daily.  

“We adopt the means of nonviolence because our end is a community at peace with itself,” he once said. “We will try to persuade with our words, but if our words fail, we will try to persuade with our acts.”  


My earliest memory of my uncle was his marriage to Coretta. I was the flower girl at the wedding, which took place on the lawn of my aunt’s parent’s house in Marion, Ala., in June 1953. I was almost 3 years old. My early memories were just like snapshots, yet I knew even then that I was a member of a family whose faith in God was the driving force.

My granddaddy, Rev. Martin Luther King Sr., and my grandmother, Alberta Williams King, instilled in their three children, Christine, Martin and Alfred, that the King Family Legacy is one established by God, in faith, hope and love. It was that faith, that deep and consequential love of God, that brought my family to a level of leadership of the 20th-century civil rights movement. 

“Nonviolence is absolute commitment to the way of love. Love is not emotional bash; it is not empty sentimentalism,” Uncle ML said. “It is the active outpouring of one’s whole being into the being of another.” 

We were also taught that forgiveness must be bestowed willingly, freely and without conditions. Those were lessons we fell back on many times as we were called on to forgive, publicly and sincerely, the most heinous of crimes. 

It’s true we lived in the spotlight, and many of the civil rights leaders passed through our homes on a regular basis during their journey. Yet, in many ways, we were just a normal family. My daddy, Rev. A.D. King, would wrestle with his older brother, Uncle ML, while the family chuckled in the background. They were playful and joyful and growing up around them was a lot of fun.  

“I have decided to stick with love,” my uncle famously said. “Hate is too great a burden to bear.” 

When Uncle ML was assassinated in 1968, I was 17 years old and in the restive way of teenagers, I wanted to blame all White people. I wanted to give hate room to grow in my heart. But my mother and father and my grandparents and Uncle ML reminded all of us that hate only begets more hate, and there should not be room in the world for animosity or mistrust or hostility. 

When my uncle was killed on April 4, 1968, I remember talking to my daddy about my feelings of hating White people. Daddy rocked me in his arms and said to me, “White people march with us, they go to jail with us, they pray with us, they live with us, and they die with us. White people didn’t kill your uncle, the Devil did. 

The next year I was called to forgive again – not only those still-unknown people who had killed my uncle, but now they had killed my father. I had to forgive yet another injustice; including all those that had shrugged off my daddy’s death and called it a suicide. 

During this time from 1968 to 1974, much was happening in my life. I became engaged to be married in 1968, a bride in 1969, and a mother in 1970. Still reeling from the brutal deaths of my daddy and uncle I experienced two abortions and a miscarriage. Then on June 30, 1974, my beloved grandmother Alberta King was murdered while playing the Lord’s Prayer on the organ during Sunday services at Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.  


Back then I didn’t think my broken heart was big enough to forgive and to go on loving my fellow men and women. But love and forgiveness were the King family legacy, and while that legacy sometimes felt like a burden, I see now how it is a gift. 

“I have decided to stick with love,” my uncle famously said. “Hate is too great a burden to bear.” 

That’s what he would tell us today, and what I say whenever I am given an opportunity. This year, as we observe MLK Day, I urge everyone to remember that it is designated not as a day off from work, but as a day on of service. We can all find something constructive to do in our communities, even if it’s just shaking the hand of the neighbor who supported a different candidate. Anything we can do to increase the peace is more than worth our efforts. 


Love, my Uncle ML said, “is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” 

When we learn to value the human personality, and understand that we are one blood and one human race, we can learn to live together as brothers and sisters and we won’t perish as fools. 


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