“Billy Graham and Martin Luther King had preached together in Madison Square Garden to break through the racial barriers,” Alveda King told Rebecca Mansour and Joel Pollak, co-hosts of Sirius XM’s Breitbart News Tonight, on Wednesday as she reflected on the legacy of Rev. Billy Graham, who passed away on Wednesday morning at age 99.
King, who is Dr. King’s niece, reflected on Graham’s rejection of racial segregation, including a 1957 event in which both Graham and her uncle preached in New York City.
“It was in Madison Square Garden, and it was recorded that Billy Graham said, ‘Look, I’m not going to do any more segregated meetings,'” said King. “Before, especially in the South, when [Billy Graham] would come to speak, they would seat the black people on one side and the Caucasian people on the other side. They wouldn’t even sit them together. And Billy Graham said, ‘This is ludicrous and ridiculous.’ Those are my words, I can’t say he said those specific words, but he said he was not going to do that anymore, and he said he was going to call this young man, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to stand with him in Madison Square Garden, and it is my understanding that they definitely ministered together.”
King reflected on her uncle’s Christian basis for opposing racially discriminatory government policies.
“My uncle taught we were one blood – Acts 17:26 – we could be brothers and sisters because we were one blood — not colorblind. We could see living color — but human beings,” said King.
Acts 17:26 reads, “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.”
Both Rev. Graham and Dr. Martin Luther King made sacrifices – especially familial – in pursuit of preaching the gospel, said King, noting that neither man was perfect.
“[Graham and King] were very phenomenal and remarkable men who really did love the Lord,” said King. “Were either one of them perfect? Absolutely not. But they loved and served a perfect God.”
Mansour asked King if the centrality of Christian faith to Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy was being stripped by left-wing secular hagiography.
“[Sonny Johnson and I] were talking Dr. King’s legacy,” said Mansour. “One of the things that Sonny found sad about the statue that was erected of Dr. King is that it doesn’t show him with his Bible and his cross. It doesn’t show the fact that his faith was where he got his power. How do you feel about the way that he’s being depicted? Do you feel like the power he had as a man of God, as a preacher, as a minister, is being taken away or that it’s not being recognized? When I read his “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” that is a letter that is rooted in the philosophical grounding of Western civilization and Judeo-Christian values, the belief in a just God and that man is crying out for justice, and that’s how we appeal to men of good faith. Do you feel that’s being taken away? Do we lose something of what his message was when we take away that understanding of his background?”
Recent inquiries about Martin Luther King’s Jr. legacy reflect a growing understanding of and interest in the centrality of Christian faith to the best-known civil rights figure’s legacy, said King.
“For a season, it was being taken away, but more and more now, and I guess that’s because things have become so dire and so critical, that when people speak of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. now, it’s more about his sermons or his relationship with God,” said King. “When Colin Kaepernick, for instance, took the knee last summer, and then the pictures of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taking the knee, but the point that was made was that when Martin Luther King Jr. took the knee, it was in prayer to God and repentance and asking for healing and forgiveness and that if you don’t get the message right, which is the prayer to God, then you are missing out.”
“The strength and integrity of who Martin Luther King Jr. was [was] not his intellect. It was not his pitch. It was his heart, which was bonded and knit to Jesus Christ,” said King.
The civil rights movement, said King, was based on Christian values. “What was the force and the strength of the twentieth-century civil rights movement? It was God. Father God. Son God. Holy Spirit God.”
Graham’s work schedule caused him to make sacrifices, particularly with spending time with his family, said King. “When you begin to give up so much to proclaim and do the gospel, all kinds of challenges and tests come not only to the minister of the Gospel, … but to the family, and the family has to give up so much for that to happen.”
King said spending time with Graham afforded her “a broader perspective on the importance of prayer.”
King responded to Joy Behar’s derision of Vice President Mike Pence as “mentally ill,” which itself was based on a claim Omarosa Maginault, the former White House staffer, made on CBS’s Big Brother. “[Mike Pence is] extreme,” said Maginault. “I’m Christian. I love Jesus, but he thinks Jesus tells him to say things that are like…I’m like, ‘Jesus didn’t say that.’ He’s scary.”
“When they’re going on and on about Vice President Mike Pence being crazy because he talks to God and hears God, well, I say, ‘Well, Martin Luther King said he heard God,'” said King.
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Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter @rkraychik.