Martin Luther King, Nonviolence, and Veganism

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Martin Luther King, Jr. is famous for preaching justice and nonviolence. Although his sermons and speeches focused mainly on relationships between humans, the core of his philosophy—that everyone should be treated with love and respect—is one with which the animal rights community is extremely familiar. It is no surprise then, that several of King's supporters, and even his own family, took that message one step further and applied it to the animal community directly.

King's son, Dexter Scott King, became vegan after civil rights activist, comedian, and PETA supporter Dick Gregory introduced the concept. Gregory, who was deeply involved with both the Black Freedom Struggle and the struggle for animal rights, was a close friend of the King family, and helped to spread King's message across the country at performances and rallies. 

Inspired by Dick Gregory, Dexter King became a vegan himself. As he told Vegetarian Times in 1995,

"Veganism has given me a higher level of awareness and spirituality, primary because the energy associated with eating has shifted to other areas." 

Dexter King said that his family wasn't sure what to think of his new diet at first. But his mother, Corretta Scott King, later became vegan as well.

About the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, Corretta King writes:

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday celebrates the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to America. We commemorate as well the timeless values he taught us through his example—the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service that so radiantly defined Dr. King's character and empowered his leadership. On this holiday, we commemorate the universal, unconditional love, forgiveness and nonviolence that empowered his revolutionary spirit.

These values that Mrs. King praises, in particular justice, dignity, and humility, are also applicable to the animal rights movement. It is no surprise then, that King's own family recognized the intersections of these movements and embraced their common goals.