From September of 1957 through December of 1958, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. penned an advice column for EBONY. We hand picked a few memorable letters. See how Dr. King’s “Advice for Living” holds up today!
For a historic timeline of major events in the life of MLK, head to Inside EBONY.
Question: My wife has no respect for my profession as an entertainer and believes I should get a more secure job that would permit me to spend more time with the children. I can’t make her understand that my work is rewarding and that my possible success will provide greater security. Since the “job” problem is creating a crisis in our home, what should I do?
Dr. King: If, as you say, your work is rewarding to you and has the possibility for greater economic security for the future, it would be well for you to patiently and calmly attempt to convince your wife that you should stick with this profession. You must seek to get over to her that one’s life work is much more meaningful and creative when it is something that the person enjoys doing. I can see how your wife would be desirous of your spending more time with the family and certainly you should seek to arrange your working schedule so that it will be possible to devote more time to your home life. In spite of this, however, you must seek to get your wife to see that it often takes a little time for people to get established in certain professions. Give her the example of numerous persons who are now at the top of their professions, but who took several years to get established and secure.
Question: Few Negroes in our town register to vote, although the lists are open and there is little or no intimidation or violence. Why are so many Negroes indifferent about their basic right?
Dr. King: Indifference of Negroes concerning their basic rights is appalling indeed. Some of this indifference is rooted in the injurious effects of segregation and discrimination on the soul of the Negro. The tragedy of segregation is that it not only harms one physically, but it injures one spiritually. It scars the soul and distorts the personality. It gives the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Many Negroes are apathetic concerning their basic rights because they have a sense of inferiority and a real lack of self-respect. Another source of the apathy of the Negro is found in the feeling that freedom is something that will be handed out on a silver platter. Many individuals fail to see that freedom is never attained without suffering and sacrifice; so they complacently sit by the wayside, waiting on the coming of the inevitable. Other individuals are apathetic because they sincerely feel that there is nothing they can do to better the racial situation. They have come to the pessimistic conclusion that all of their struggles are in vain. Such persons have become exhausted in the quest for freedom. Of course, all of these attitudes are unfounded and unfortunate. Negroes must rise above a sense of inferiority and come to see that they can do something about the problem through persistent agitation and hard work, combined with discipline and dignity.
Question: Last Sunday my preacher did something that disturbed me. He mixed a lot of worldly things in his sermon. My question is this: Should God and the NAACP be mixed in the pulpit?
Dr. King: I know of no way to separate God from the noble work that the NAACP is doing. Religion at its best is a two-way road. On the one
Click through the gallery below to see the MLK advice columns from the past issues of EBONY magazine.