Next month, it will be fifty years since the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his magnificent “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to a crowd of 250,000 people who had joined the 1963 March on Washington. Fifty years—but his niece, Dr. Alveda King, says that the struggle for human rights continues. “For me,” Dr. King tells me by phone, “fifty years of ‘I Have a Dream’ and the March on Washington should include the sanctity of life.”

File 1976

Alveda King’s father, the Rev. A.D. King, was Martin Luther King Jr.’s older brother and a civil rights leader in his own right. In 1963, he was arrested with his brother in Alabama at a lunch-counter sit-in. Later that year, his house was bombed and nearly flattened—fortunately, he, his wife, and five children escaped unscathed. A.D. King, like his brother Martin, espoused non-violence—a mere three months after his own home was bombed, A.D. King quelled an angry mob intent on revenging the bombing of another civil rights activist in Birmingham by standing atop a car and bellowing, “My friends, we have had enough problems tonight. If you’re going to kill someone, then kill me…Stand up for your rights, but with nonviolence.”

It is this story, the story of her father and her uncle and the terrible toll racism has wrought on her family that Alveda King recorded in Sons of Thunder: The King Family Legacy. This legacy was one of universal human dignity—and Dr. King continues her family’s legacy by fighting for the rights of another group marginalized by discrimination and injustice—children in the womb.

“For me, pro-life is from conception until natural death,” says Alveda King, “…the baby in the womb is saying, ‘Let freedom ring for me, too.’” This is a message she brings to as many people as she can across the United States in her capacity as the director of African-American Outreach for Priests for Life. King has often noted the staggeringly high abortion rates in the African American community, and is working to respond to that reality. “We have many projects to inform the African-American community that abortion is not a civil right, it is a civil wrong,” King says, “We are having tremendous successes in promoting that message.”

Although Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy has been often hijacked by abortion rights activists (Planned Parenthood leader Cecile Richards stirred outrage among African-American pro-life leaders by tweeting a quote from him earlier this summer), Alveda King dismisses outright the idea that her uncle would have supported abortion.

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“Martin Luther King Jr. said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” she told me, “In his ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ he cautioned people not to be like the Romans, who committed infanticide. Planned Parenthood attempted to give Martin Luther King Jr. the Margaret Sanger Award in 1966, but he did not attend the ceremony, he did not write or deliver a speech. His wife embraced the pro-choice movement, much like Mrs. Laura Bush or Mrs. Barbara Bush. The presidents themselves were pro-life, and that is the case with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

File 1979

The successes of the Civil Rights Movement hold a deservedly exalted position in the annals of American history today, but as I’ve noted before, the legacy of this time period has a face both cherubic and evil. There was an unprecedented move towards justice and equality for African-Americans and an unprecedented move towards injustice for the pre-born Americans in their mothers’ wombs. As the sanitation crews washed the blood of Civil Rights marchers from the streets, the trash collectors began to heave garbage bags full of dismembered American children onto their trucks. The Grim Reaper began to focus on less visible victims. “Could it be,” Alveda King has asked, “that when we said we would no longer sit on the back of the bus, a place was being reserved for us down at the abortion clinic?”

It has been almost fifty years since Martin Luther King Jr. laid out his dream for human dignity and human rights. In that half century, American abortionists have butchered 55 million pre-born children—a disproportionate number of those children being African-American.

And again, a member of the King family is willing to speak out against injustice. As King told the LA Times some time ago, “How can the dream survive if we are willing to sacrifice the futures of our children?”


Editor's Note: The interview with Alveda King accompanied by a reflection on Martin Luther King Jr.'s “I Have a Dream” speech will air on Radio Teopoli on Thursday (530 AM) at 1:30 PM EST in the Greater Toronto Area, hosted by communications director Jonathon Van Maren.