Who was Betty Moitz, MLK's former lover? TikTok videos explained

Bruno Cooke November 22, 2021
Who was Betty Moitz, MLK’s former lover? TikTok videos explained
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TikToker @heluv.enyssa’s recent posts about Martin Luther King Jr’s past relationship with a white woman named Betty Moitz have picked up millions of views, and spilled over on to other social media sites. Who was Betty Moitz, why are people talking about her now, and how old was she when she died?

Who were the first to write about Betty Moitz and Martin Luther King Jr’s relationship?

In terms of her relationship with American Baptist minister and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, Betty Moitz was first fully named in David Garrow’s 1986 MLK biography, Bearing The Cross. 

But she barely existed in the book; fellow biographer Patrick Parr had to parse the endnotes just to discover her full name. He then had to work to track her down. 

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In April 2018, Parr published Seminarian: Martin Luther King Jr Comes Of Age. The biography focuses on King’s life as a young man – apparently people called him “ML” back then – and brings to light his hitherto undocumented relationship with Moitz, a white woman.

Yesterday TikToker @heluv.enyssa brought some of the details of King and Moitz’ relationship to a new audience. But any minute-long TikTok video is bound to omit context, especially when distilling a book’s worth of information into just a few words.

How did they know each other?

Moitz had a family connection to Crozer Theological Seminary, where King graduated from with a Bachelor of Divinity in 1951. Her grandmother and mother were both dieticians there. 

One day, when visiting her mother on campus, she met “a well-dressed, ambitious young man from Atlanta” (writes Parr) – Martin Luther King Jr. 

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Over time, their relationship “blossomed” but, ultimately, Parr quotes a mentor of King’s at the time, stating it left him as a “man with a broken heart – he never recovered”.

Why didn’t Betty Moitz and MLK stay together?

Years later, in a 1964 biography, African-American scholar Lerone Bennett quoted King as saying: “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.” By this time, King had married Coretta.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, writes Parr, interracial relationships were “still very much taboo” in the US. 

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In 1958, 94 per cent of Americans disapproved of interracial marriage, according to Gallup. In 2013, 13 per cent still disapproved. But that was the context in which King and Moitz’ relationship had to exist.

Betty Moitz died shortly after she and Parr met for the first time. Their meeting, in January 2016, followed a year-long correspondence. She was 89 when she died.

Incidentally, Divine Write Pictures optioned the film, TV and digital rights to Patrick Parr’s biography, The Seminarian, a few weeks ago.

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Bruno is a postgraduate student studying global journalism, with research interests in the intersection of the media, storytelling, culture and politics. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Packs Light and Forge Press, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com. He is a Student Ambassador for Tortoise Media, a big fan of Freddie Mercury and a novelist – his debut novel, Reveries, is available on Amazon.