Ivan King was born in Wenatchee, Washington in 1934 and moved to Seattle in 1940. His father was unable to work after being crippled by a drunk driver and died when King was a small child, leaving the family in dire poverty and dependent on social services.
As a young adult in Seattle, King became an active pacifist and Christian socialist through his involvement in the Pentecostal church. While attending predominantly black Pentecostal churches, he started researching and writing about black history, befriended Christian socialists, and came to see a parallel between racial prejudice and the class discrimination he experienced as part of a welfare family.
As an undergraduate, King studied race relations at Seattle Pacific University in the mid 1950s before transferring to the University of Washington (UW). In 1957, he co-founded and served as Chairman of Anvil Club, a socialist student organization that sought to sustain social movement activism on the UW campus during the height of the Cold War. Through his socialist activism, King met Walt Hundley, with whom he made an abortive attempt to found the first Seattle Chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in 1957. King was also active in the UW’s Civil Rights Action Group (CRAG).
In 1964, King was hired as Assistant Director of the Seattle Urban League. Over the next three years, he worked on a variety of issues related to education, housing, and welfare; drafted the original funding proposal for Model Cities; and supported Director Ed Pratt’s effort to transform the Urban League into a more activist organization. In 1967, Walt Hundley recruited King from the Urban League to oversee the Central Area Motivation Program’s (CAMP) Action Education Centers (AEC). The AEC staged controversial grassroots community education programs that sought to challenge racism, facilitate dialog, and promote awareness of African American history. When AEC funding was cut after just one year, Hundley, who had left CAMP to lead Seattle’s Model Cities Program, hired King to serve as his Employment and Economic Development Coordinator. Years later, King wrote a brief history of CAMP in 1990.
Ivan King shared his memories about Christian Socialism, the Red Scare, Seattle's Civil Rights movement, and the War on Poverty with Trevor Griffey on May 25, 2006. Work on this interview was made possible by a grant from 4Culture/King County Lodging Tax.