King Pushing Son on Swing Set

Another Side of MLK: Intimate Photos of an Icon

Flip Schulke's photographs show the softer side of Martin Luther King Jr.

When Flip Schulke first met Martin Luther King Jr. at a Miami rally in 1958, the photojournalist was just 28 years old but had already been covering the civil rights movement for two years. The meeting in Miami would spark a deep friendship that lasted until King’s assassination in 1968.

For a decade Schulke, who passed away in 2008 at the age of 77, traveled across the country with Dr. King. From Selma and Montgomery to Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, he followed King’s trail, making more than 11,000 photos of the American civil rights hero. But pictures Schulke captured on one particular day stand out from the rest.


Taken November 8, 1965, in King’s hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, shortly after the minister won the Nobel Peace Prize, these photos show a side of MLK seldom seen by the public: the warm, playful family man.

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Flip Schulke Archives/Corbis via Getty Images

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Flip Schulke Archives/Corbis via Getty Images

Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King was baptized as a child, ordained as minister, and eulogized at his funeral in 1968, remains a landmark of the civil rights era. On this certain Sunday in November 1965, the sun was shining, family and friends – including Flip Schulke – were near, and the reverend was all smiles. (Pictured above right: Coretta Scott King with their daughters Yolanda, left, and Bernice.)

Reverend King Greeting Parishioners Flip Schulke Archives/Corbis via Getty Images

“Because he was a Baptist minister, he had to be very serious in public,” Schulke wrote of King in his 1995 memoir, "He Had a Dream." “The times were serious. But after church with his congregation, his face would light up. I wish that more people could have seen this lighthearted side of him.”

Martin Luther King Jr. Greeting Parishioners Flip Schulke Archives/Corbis via Getty Images Coretta Scott King Playing With Daughter Flip Schulke Archives/Corbis via Getty Images

Three years after that Sunday visit with King and his family, Schulke would return to Ebenezer Baptist Church to document King’s funeral, capturing a now-iconic photo of a mourning Coretta Scott King — a portrait of dignity and pain that, a week and a half later, graced the cover of Life magazine.

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Flip Schulke Archives/Corbis via Getty Images

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Flip Schulke Archives/Corbis via Getty Images

Schulke’s photos of King with his wife and kids show an unexpected, softer side of the civil rights legend. Far from the impassioned orator or the solemn strategist and commander of sit-ins and marches, through Schulke's lens we witness a devoted father and husband spending cherished time with his family – snapshots of a seemingly emblematic American life. (Pictured: MLK with his son Martin, left, and with his son Dexter.)

King Family at Sunday Dinner Flip Schulke Archives/Corbis via Getty Images King Feeding his Infant Daughter Flip Schulke Archives/Corbis via Getty Images

King’s murder in Memphis in April 1968 marked a turning point for Schulke, who found it difficult to cover the civil rights movement after the shock of the assassination. His photography would take him around the globe, covering natural disasters, elite athletes, and armed conflicts, and he would go on to photograph world figures ranging from Muhammad Ali and Fidel Castro to JFK and Jacques Cousteau. But Schulke's memories of his time with MLK would remain among his most treasured.

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Flip Schulke Archives/Corbis via Getty Images

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Flip Schulke Archives/Corbis via Getty Images

King Pushing Son on Swing Set Flip Schulke Archives/Corbis via Getty Images

"Outside of my immediate family,” Schulke wrote in his memoir, “his was the greatest friendship I have ever known or experienced. The mutual trust grew and grew. A trust that I never abrogated. A trust that he showed in many ways in the ten years that followed. Martin Luther King, Jr. — my friend."

Martin Luther King Jr. Playing With Daughters Flip Schulke Archives/Corbis via Getty Images
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