The most beautiful love letter in the world: Martin Luther King’s letter to Coretta Scott written on July 18, 1952

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Dr. Martin Luther King, accompanied by his wife, paying a visit to United Nations Headquarters. Dr. King, who was awarded the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, is the President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Here, Dr. King and his wife Coretta Scott King are seen being greeted by Mr. Ralph J. Bunche, UN Under-Secretary for Special Political Affairs. Mr. Bunche was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950. UN Photo/Yutaka Nagata 04 December 1964 United Nations, New York
Dr. Martin Luther King, accompanied by his wife, paying a visit to United Nations Headquarters. Dr. King, who was awarded the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, is the President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.Here, Dr. King and his wife Coretta Scott King are seen being greeted by Mr. Ralph J. Bunche, UN Under-Secretary for Special Political Affairs. Mr. Bunche was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950.UN Photo/Yutaka Nagata04 December 1964United Nations, New York

On July 18, 1952, frustrated Martin Luther King Jr decided to write one of the most emotional love letters to his girlfriend, Coretta Scott, who was two years older than him. She was 25, when most women were married back then at 18, and he was 23.

He was in his first year at Boston University School of Theology. He was beginning his second semester and was purposefully looking for a wife. He was beginning to believe that to be a successful pastor, he needed to be married. But he was not very successful in finding someone he liked.

And so he asked a female friend how he could go about it, and she mentioned Coretta who was in her first year at New England Conservatory of music. Both Martin and Coretta had just arrived in Boston and were trying to be social. She also wanted a boyfriend but not someone like Martin.

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For a start, she did not want anything to do with a Baptist Pastor. She was attending the African Methodist Church and they believed Baptist pastors were too emotional, energetic and too dramatic, loud and too noisy. Second, being a pastor’s wife meant she could not be professional at a time she was looking forward to having a career in music.

So she was not interested. But when Martin called, he was very persistent, and told her he was like “Napoleon and was on his knees. Please try once”. He came over the next day to take her out. Initially, when she saw him, he was short, only 5 feet and 7 inches. He did not seem very impressive. She was about to say no thanks to him.

 

But then she said, when she sat down at lunch with him, he grew in stature! And she became very much intrigued by this guy who seemed to know where he was going even at the age of 23.

He was very articulate also. And at the end of that first date, he said you have everything I ever wanted in a wife. She was kind of taken aback…you know..You just met me..and he was kind of enumerating her qualities, her beauty, her character, and so on. He was a smooth talker.

So they began to date. He fell in love. She fell in love. It was a classic love story. But there was a problem. He invited her to come to meet his parents in Atlanta on her way back from her parents house in Alabama. But she had heard about Daddy King. She had heard that he wanted his son to marry one of the daughters of the black elite in Atlanta and had even set up a date. She had heard that he was a very domineering force in Martin’s life. So Coretta was very skeptical. She was in love with this guy. Things were moving along very fast but she was not sure she wanted to commit. She declined the invitation.

And Martin Luther King Jr was heartbroken. He was really upset. You don’t want to meet my parents? Anyway, they faced a crisis in their relationship. She came back go Boston and he stayed back in Atlanta. That’s why on July 8, 1952, he decided to pen down a letter to her. Martin did not keep her letter, but she kept his, and she kept them secret. She released them to a biographer 50 years after and he was telling us the story on NPR. And I am telling you today.

So Martin wrote the following letter:


Dearest,

Fortunately, I am in a better mood today. your letter was sweet and refreshing to my heart, which had well-nigh grown cold toward you. Of course I have become convinced in the last few days that my love for you is based on such a solid foundation that the stormy winds of anger cannot blow it assunder. Love is such a dynamic force isn’t it? It is the most inexplicable and yet the most beautiful force in life. O how joyous it is [to?] be in it.

Darling I miss you so much. In fact, much to much for my own good. I never realized that you were such an intimate part of my life. My life without you is like a year without a spring time which comes to give illumination and heat to the atmosphere which has been saturated by the dark cold breeze of winter. Can you imagine the frustration that a King without a throne would face? Such would be my frustration if I in my little kinghood could not reign at the throne of Coretta. O excuse my darling. I didn’t mean to go off on such a poetical and romantic flight. But how else can we express the deep emotions of life other than in poetry. Isn’t love to ineffable to be grasped by the cold calculating heads of intellect?

By the way (to turn to something more intellectual) I have just completed Bellamy’s Looking Backward. It was both stimulating and facinating. There can be no doubt about it Bellamy had the insight of a social prophet as well as the fact finding mind of the social scientist. I welcomed the book because much of its content is in line with my basic ideas. I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic. And yet I am not so opposed to capitalism that I have failed to see its relative merits. It started out with a noble and high motive, viz, to block the trade monopolies of nobles, but like most human system it fail victim to the very thing it was revolting against. So today capitalism has outlived its usefulness. It has brought about a system that takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes. So I think Bellamy is right in seeing the gradual decline of capitalism.

I think you noticed that Bellamy emphasized that the [change?] would be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. This, it seems to me, is the most sane and ethical way for social change to take place. This, it will be remembered, is one of the points at which socialism differs from communism, the former [strikeout illegible] emphasizing evolution and the latter revolution. Communist would insist that the means justify the end. So if killing a thousand people will bring about a good end the act is ethically justifiable. It is at the point that I am radically opposed to communism. Destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends. The mean does not necessarily justify the end, for, I would insist that the end is pre existent in the mean.

Also I am quite bitterly opposed to the metaphysical structure of communism as well as Marxism. It is based on what is known as Dialectical Materialism.3 I, being an idealist, rather [than?] [remainder missing] materialists, would therefore reject Marx at this point.

There is [one?] point however, that I have learned from reading Marx and books like Bellamys, and that is that religion [can?] so easily become a tool of the middle class to keep the proletariant oppressed. To often has the church talked about a future good “over yonder” totally forgetting the present evil over here. As a theologian and one deeply convinced that the way of Christ is the only ultimate way to man’s salvation, I will try to avoid making religion what Marx calls the “opiate of the people.”4

On the negative side of the picture Bellamy falls victim to the same error that most writers of Utopian societies fall victim to, viz., idealism not tempered with realism. In other words, such systems are impractical Bellamy with his over optimism fails to see that man is a sinner, and that he is give better economic and social conditions he will still be a sinner until he submits his life to the Grace of God. Ultimately our problem is [a?] theological one. Man has revolted against God, and through his humanistic endeavors he has sought to solve his problem by himself only to find that he ha has ended up in disillusionment.

Again Bellamy fails to see [strikeout illegible] that social systems dont die over night. I dont think he gave capitalism long enough time to die. It is probably true that capitalism is on its death bed, but social systems have a way of developing a long and powerful death bed breathing capacity. Remember it took feudalism more than 500 years to pass out from its death bed. Capitalism will be in America quite a few more years my dear.

Yet with his basic thesis I would concur. Our economic system is going through a radical change, and certainly this change is needed. I would certainly welcome the day to come when there will be a nationalization of industry. Let us continue to hope, work, and pray that in the future we will live to see a warless world, a better distribution of wealth, and a brotherhood that transcends race or color. This is the gospel that I will preach to the world. At this point I must thank you a million times for introducing me to such a stimulating book you are sweet and thoughtful indeed.

As to your visit to Atlanta, I would rather not go into a detail discussion over it because I see that it can break up a beautiful relationship. I see that you are much more influenced by other people than you are by me, as maybe you would rather spend your vacation with them since they have all the answers. Nevertheless [I?] still extend to you the invitation and hope that you will come. It hurt me very much to know that you believe that I would invite you to Atlanta and then mistreat you, especialy as nice as Ive been to you in the past. Oh well I guess all of us have a little of the unappreciative attitude in us.

If you are coming let me know so that I can make the arrangements. If you dont desire to come also let me know soon and I assure you that [I?] wont mention it to you any more. Of course if you dont come I will know that you have no confidence in me and I will proceed to think out our courtship in those lines I hope [strikeout illegible] we wont have to break up about this trip.

Give my regards to [Scottie?] and the other member of the gang. Be sweet and remember that daddy still loves you.

Eternaly yours

[signed] “Martin”

P.S. Hope you can read my bad writing….

And she went………

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Simon Ateba Washington DC
Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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