‘Lovecraft Country’s Gossip About Martin Luther King Jr. Is Apparently True

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From the beginning, Lovecraft Country has been telling a very real history of the United States in the midst of all its fantasy. The opening episode not only delved into the reality of Sunset Towns but name-checked Anna, Illinois, one of the most famous of them. Episode 2 was more fantasy-focused, introducing the Braithwhites and Tic’s wizard heritage, but it still worked in the shameful history of how slaveowners raped slaves for breeding purposes. In Episode 3, Lovecraft Country‘s gossip about Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the elements pulled in from reality. But what it referenced might surprise some viewers.

Warning: Spoilers for Lovecraft Country Episode 3 follow. Though Lovecraft Country did not spell out Leti’s background, the first two episodes hinted she was connected to the period’s burgeoning Civil Rights movement. Living in Washington D.C., the talk of using money to bail out friends — these were pretty good indications the “friends” her siblings didn’t approve of or care for were those pushing for equality in the years before the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Episode 3 confirmed Leti’s connection to the movement during the house party scene for her grand reopening of the Winthrop House. As the camera followed Leti wandering through pouring drinks and playing host, viewers stopped in to eavesdrop on a conversation between her activist friends: “You heard about that newcomer preacher who’s supposed to jumpstart the movement?”

“Michael, right?” asked one of the men.

“He’s going by Martin now,” Leti’s friend responded.

A skeptical woman interrupted: “I heard he was engaged to a white woman.”

Leti’s friend shook her head. “Nah, they made him marry a colored one last year.”

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Martin Luther King Jr. (born Michael King Jr.) would indeed “jumpstart the movement” with the Bus Boycott in 1955. But this talk of his love life wasn’t just idle gossip; it’s a story pulled from a recent MLK biography, The Seminarian: Martin Luther King Jr. Comes of Age by Patrick Parr, which claimed King was deeply in love with a white woman before he became famous.

In Parr’s research of King’s history, he came across the first mention of “Betty” in the 1986 King biography relationship, Bearing the Cross. He identified her as Betty Moitz, a white woman, and discovered King himself once referenced his relationship with her in an interview for the 1964 biography, What Matter of Man:

She liked me and I found myself liking her. But finally I had to tell her resolutely that my plans for the future did not include marriage to a white woman.

Parr tracked down and interviewed Moitz, who claimed she and King had been madly in love. In an excerpt from The Seminarian published in Politico Magazine in 2018, Moitz stated she and King got together in the late 1940s when he was a divinity student at Crozer Theological Seminary. But, she said, their relationship was challenging. This was in Pennsylvania, where miscegenation laws weren’t as bad as down South, but it didn’t mean there wasn’t social fallout.

According to Moitz, it got serious enough that marriage was supposedly in the cards. But many in King’s circle disapproved, seeing the relationship as a potential derailment to his career. Ultimately it didn’t happen, and King married Coretta Scott in 1953. And that’s the (apparent) tea on that.

Lovecraft Country continues on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.

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