Remembering Martin Luther King Jr., The Advocate

The Civil Rights Movement in the United States began in 1954. Informally, it began when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Formally, however, it began with the Montgomery bus boycott – led, in part, by a young Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr., the Advocate

This was the first step of many for King, a leader who practiced nonviolent resistance in the face of brutal opposition. While many of you may have heard some of his story, some may be less familiar. Here is a quick rundown of his most prominent accomplishments:

  • In 1955, King led the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a 385-day-long protest where black Americans refused to ride public buses. The protest ended with a court ruling that ended racial segregation on Montgomery public transit. The protest launched King – then 26 years old – into the public eye as the leader for the Civil Rights Movement.
  • In 1957, he helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The organization provided a united front for nonviolent opposition against racial oppression and injustice of all forms.
  • In 1963, he began the Birmingham Campaign in Birmingham, Alabama. King’s intent was to provoke mass arrests and “create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.” Which it did. The tactics used by Birmingham authorities on nonviolent protesters – beatings, mauling by police dogs, and high-powered water hoses – were on complete view to the American public and the world.
  • In 1963, King made his famous seventeen-minute “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The demonstration was attended by more than 250,000 people.
  • In 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is signed into law. Employment discrimination on the basis of an individual’s race, religion, sex, national origin, or color become illegal. Also, racial segregation in public places was banned.
  • In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law. This secured the right to vote for racial minorities, especially in the southern United States.
  • In 1967, the Poor People’s Campaign was launched. The Poor People’s Campaign was a multiracial effort and sought to lessen poverty of all races in the United States – including African Americans, white Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans.
  • In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. He was 39 years old.

But a man’s life cannot be remembered through bullet points alone. Between the most important events mentioned and unmentioned, King breathed, worried, cried, laughed and, of course, marched. We’re here to examine Martin Luther King Jr., the man and the Advocate (INFJ).


Most of us are acquainted with King through grainy footage on a screen – a documentary, an interview, or a rare candid shot, perhaps. Luckily for us, his personality has been preserved through his own letters and the memories of his loved ones. With this material, we have come to the conclusion that the good doctor was an Introvert. A serious one at that.

“He would come at night, he wasn’t a man to sit at a table and enjoy his life,” said restaurateur Leah Chase, whose diner was frequented by King and his team. “He was too busy. He was always on the move, always thinking ahead and trying to do things.”

Although a lot of his actions were outward-facing, it is the way of an Advocate personality to take direction and inspiration from their own inner calling. For King, his calling was to draw attention to classism and racism in the United States – no matter how unpopular it made him. Keeping that in mind, King wasn’t a big collaborator, he was a leader who inspired and worked to share his inner thoughts and ideas with others – guiding them to follow his dream rather than following others.


In our framework, we define people with the Intuitive personality trait as preferring “novelty over stability and focus on hidden meanings and future possibilities.”

King did not compromise on his ideals about the future and what it should look like.

He would take what was given, but he was fond of saying, “I always have to look at the ultimate and in terms of the ultimate we are still a long, long way from our goal.” He said this in response to reporters who asked if he was happy with the nominal success of a campaign.

Martin Luther King possessed a foresight that was not only considered unpopular during his time but radical. He believed in the unity of the races and classes, and they should and could be unified through nonviolent means. Even during the most difficult times in his life, King would say, “I still have faith in the future.”


King connected with people in a way that very few leaders could. He harnessed his own emotions to deliver speeches that inspired and lit a fire in others. As Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence says, King was successful in connecting strongly with the emotions of his listeners, and in convincing them to empathize with others, King demonstrated emotional intelligence decades before the concept had a name.

With his emotions, and his ability to use those emotions, he transformed anger into action.

We argue against King being a Thinking personality type because of his approach to desegregation. King was an adamant supporter of nonviolence. Though this approach wasn’t the most efficient, it was the one King decided would be best, both empathetically and morally.

Thinking personalities, on the other hand, would be reluctant to take a route so slow. We look to other Civil Rights activists like Malcolm X (a Commander or a Debater) who thought black Americans couldn’t afford to be peaceful and patient. For those with the Thinking personality trait, efficiency would be of the utmost importance, and they would likely at least consider putting efficiency before morality.


King was a methodical man.

It could be said that out all of King’s personality traits, his diligence to his cause was perhaps the most impressive. Here is a man who spent over half of his life organizing, monitoring, and planning campaigns against a world filled with many obstacles.

Not only did he plan but he made it so that each of his campaigns had the greatest impact possible. He and his team picked certain cities to campaign from. These cities were those that would have the most profound impact.

From childhood, King had a vivid idea of what he thought the world should look like. He reached out to all his resources to accomplish his goal. He was also a man who disliked deviancy from a plan, or people who were deviants. That, of course, he tempered with his Feeling trait.

Putting It All Together

To compare an Advocate to a Protagonist, one need only look towards another influential Diplomat – Barack Obama. Barack Obama presents strongly as a textbook Protagonist (ENFJ), and it’s easy to see the difference between the two men through their speeches. Obama has a levity to him during his speeches, never above making a joke at the expense of himself or his cause. He understands that, for some, levity is needed to connect to people’s need to laugh in order to feel hopeful.

King, on the other hand, never made light of his situation – perhaps because there was no room for levity. Arguably, the fight he was trying win was a matter of life and death, not just change. As a result, he took everything seriously. He took himself very seriously. And, in true Advocate fashion, he thought that it was his fault for not having done enough. King placed a heavy burden on himself and did not share it with others.

It is difficult to tell if he had a Turbulent or Assertive personality considering the enormous responsibility put on his shoulders. Under that sort of duress, anyone, no matter how stable, will inevitably doubt themselves. In the end, we believe that King matches closely with the Advocate personality type described below:

“As members of the Diplomat Role group, Advocates have an inborn sense of idealism and morality, but what sets them apart is that they are not idle dreamers, but people capable of taking concrete steps to realize their goals and make a lasting positive impact.”

Martin Luther King Jr., even in the end, was a man who always sought to make life better for the world. He never bowed to external pressure and remained true to his beliefs about justice. It’s for these reasons that even decades after his death, we continue to celebrate the man he was and the symbol of peace he became.

Here at 16Personalities, we hold accuracy in high esteem. That being said, there’s only so much research we can do on a person. Without being able to interview and assess a living King, our label of Advocate can only ever be theoretical.

So, do you have your own theories? Let us know in the comments below!

4 weeks ago
Just another reason to love MLK! #represent
1 month ago
Good write-up. Can the article be linked to his avatar under the "Advocates You May Know" header?
1 month ago
There is a little-known dark streak in King's personality. He wasn't a saint, and he cheated on his wife multiple times, but of course, that knowledge has been very conveniently not taught. Just another form of manipulation that seems trivial by itself, but added to other obscured knowledge, it becomes part of a bigger picture.
4 weeks ago
Being a student of history, I’ve found that the vast majority of public figures are far from the saintly image we project onto them. Dr King was relatively stable compared to similar public figures, such as Gandhi and John Lennon, who were said to have been domestic abusers. I also think that devoting so much of oneself to a greater cause tends to make one a pretty poor spouse and parent. And all that influence and prestige can go to many a public figure’s head.
4 weeks ago
Yes, I said the same with Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I have learned not to be a fan of anyone, just admire their good qualities and take any good habit of them for our growth.
4 weeks ago
Whether that is true or not is really beside the point isn't it? What does his personal marriage life have to do with the civil rights cause or the validity of what he stood for?
1 month ago
I agree with the INFJ theory for Mr. King, even the thinking trait. Against the popular beliefs of some of his followers and advisors he believed in morality more than efficiency. I don’t think that he ever would have imagined his name being in the textbooks 50 or 100 years later. He wouldn’t have wanted the fame, just the vision of the world which would be worse off without him. Though he didn’t personally accomplish the dream, he did for the rest of the world. He also never would have imagined what “discrimation” has turned into today. I believe he would have been disappointed. It has turned into an extremely controversial subject and I’m sure everyone has their own opinion but, think about the peaceful actions Mr. King took to slowly establish a better world.
1 month ago
I did not like being an INFJ, but now I am proud because I admire King very much. I am still shocked that Mother Teresa of Calcutta is an advocate, because her thinking was not altruistic, it was a religious fanatic who liked the pain of others because "pain brought them closer to Jesus", that is the conclusion to which Several historians arrived.
1 month ago
To be fair, there are no good or bad personality types and everyone has one. External influences, including our personal experiences, affect how we operate within our type which is what makes us all unique individuals. I believe if we must judge, we must judge the person's actions, not their type. (And yes, I'm an Advocate myself.)
1 month ago
I agree, Natalia. Being an INFJ sucks sometimes but it’s encouraging to know we share the same type as people like MLK.
1 month ago
I definitely think that all personality types have their own charm, good qualities to be proud of and other not-so-good aspects to work on. I'm an Advocate too, and although it's true I admire some characteristics from other personality types, I personally like very much all aspects of the Advocate type, I think it suits me really well and, excuse me for this question but I'm curious, may I ask, why you don't like to be an Advocate?
4 weeks ago
INFJs are usually misunderstood and I've grown up with mostly S types (e.g., my family) and that's caused me a lot of pain and suffering. I've been running away from the thought of being an INFJ because of my painful past, but I'm now forcing myself to come to terms with it.
4 weeks ago
I absolutely agree with Angela. There are no “good” or “bad” personality types, and that’s one thing I love about the system. I’ve known staunch Thinking types who were blunt but fair, and loyal friends. I’ve known Feeling types who were catty, manipulative, or even downright abusive. On the dark side of the INFJ personality, I’ve heard some compelling arguments that Adolf Hitler was a VERY unhealthy INFJ. That doesn’t mean that being an INFJ means you’re going to be like Hitler, any more than it means that you’ll be like Dr King. All it means is that you likely have strong convictions and that you have the potential for grit and determination to try to make your dreams a reality. As an INFP-T, I envy this trait.
4 weeks ago
I agree with you. I always say that they do not understand me, and before I was very irritated and did not act like an INFJ in front of them, because due to the frustration I became cold and rude. But they complement very well some of my characteristics, such as making me enjoy a trip using my senses, because I always lost myself in my mind wherever I was. I reflected a lot on the fact that I always treated the disgruntled well even when they were S, and I wondered why my own family was not like that ... cheer up! I know that you have a lot of love to give despite the dierencies, but still do not stop saying when you do not like something.
4 weeks ago
Hahaha yes, many of us are very lonely, and I can only see ENTPs like you on the Internet;)
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