How was MLK characterized in his time?

During his time, MLK was not well-liked by most Americans. Clearly, segregationists opposed him directly and many others saw him as a traitor and communist sympathizer for his outspoken criticism of the Vietnam War. There were also many African Americans who felt his approach to civil rights was too slow and accommodating to be meaningful.

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Despite being widely revered today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not universally loved during his lifetime. In fact, there were many who despised and distrusted him.

One reason for this was his criticism of the Vietnam War. King vocally pointed out the hypocrisy of sending young African Americans halfway around the world to fight for democratic liberties when these same freedoms were denied to them at home. His outspoken opinions against the war resulted in accusations that he was unpatriotic and a communist sympathizer. This stance resulted in President Johnson, a former ally of King's, to sever ties with him. Many other civil rights activists criticized King for this as it threatened to undo many of the accomplishments the movement had made in recent years.

Not surprisingly, King made many white enemies. However, this did not only include southern segregationists. In the North, his open-housing campaign garnered many white opponents who did not support the idea of allowing African Americans into their neighborhoods. They also opposed his calls for more government assistance to poor African Americans. He even referred to a Chicago mob as more full of hate that any he experienced in the South.

Throughout the late 1950s and 1960s, King gained opponents within the civil rights movement. There was a large contingent that felt that King's nonviolent tactics were too slow and accommodating to create meaningful change. Some, such as Malcolm X, rejected King's vision of an integrated society. They felt that African Americans had suffered too long at the hands of whites to ever create a harmonious relationship with them. They considered King to be too naive to create a society in which African Americans actually achieved the liberties they were fighting for.

None of this is to say that King did not have his supporters. Those who felt that racial integration was the best hope for African Americans and that it could be achieved through non-violent means,revered him. However, it should be remembered that a 1968 poll found that a mere 25 percent of Americans had a favorable opinion of King.

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