It's easy to forget now that Martin Luther King was not always regarded as a secular saint. In fact, he remained a highly divisive figure throughout his life, and, when he was assassinated, was probably more controversial than he ever had been, thanks to his outspokenness against the Vietnam War and his increasing calls for economic justice.
It's also hard to imagine someone asking Martin Luther King whether he was loyal to America. But people did ask King that question, along with a lot of other ones that seem rather outlandish to us today. We've gathered just a few of them together in honor of Martin Luther King Day.
"Don't you think that your remarks have created doubts about the Negro's loyalty to his country?"
Host Mike Douglas asked King this question on a 1967 episode of his talk show. King had recently given several high-profile speeches against the war in Vietnam.
"I don't think our loyalty to the country should be measured by our ability to kill," King responded.
"Have Communists infiltrated the movement?"
"Meet the Press" panelist Lawrence Spivak asked King this during a 1965 appearance on that show. This was a long-running theme; King was asked similar questions, for instance, during a 1963 appearance on the same show.
When King denied that Communists were driving the movement, Spivak followed up by asking him, in rather McCarthyite fashion, whether he had made an appearance at a "Communist training school" nearly eight years before the interview.
"Do you, as a Negro leader, feel that you and Negro leaders should urge the government to undertake a birth control program addressed specifically to the Negro segment of the population that is affected by illegitimacy?"
King was asked this during a 1965 interview on "Face the Nation." The interviewers appeared very, very concerned about the state of birth control in the black community. (For his part, King said he favored birth control for all people.) The question also showed how King was constantly being asked to speak for all black people in his interviews.
"How far does this integration go? This Ideal state? David Lawrence says the underlying fear of white Southerners is interracial marriage. Arthur Crock wrote a whole column on the same thing. Isn’t this the end step? If one looks at another person as a human being rather than what is the color of his skin, you will have mass intermarriage."
King was asked this weird question in 1958 by, of all people, Mike Wallace. Wallace asked him so many questions about interracial marriage, in fact, that King's aides complained afterwards. King replied that he really didn't think "mass intermarriage" would happen, and that "races don’t marry, people do."