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For other uses, see Martin Luther King (disambiguation), MLK (disambiguation), and MLK, Jr. (disambiguation)
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr NYWTS.jpg
Martin Luther King Jr Signature2.svg
Date of birth: January 15, 1929(1929-01-15)
Place of birth: Atlanta, Georgia,
United States
Date of death: April 4, 1968 (aged 39)
Place of death: Memphis, Tennessee,
United States
Movement: African-American Civil Rights Movement and Peace movement
Major organizations: Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)
Notable prizes: Nobel Peace Prize (1964)
Presidential Medal of Freedom (1977, posthumous)
Congressional Gold Medal (2004, posthumous)
Major monuments: Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial (planned)
Alma mater: Morehouse College
Crozer Theological Seminary
Boston University
Religion: Baptist
Influences Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Benjamin Mays, Hosea Williams, Bayard Rustin, Henry David Thoreau, Howard Thurman, Leo Tolstoy

Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American clergyman, activist and prominent leader in the African-American civil rights movement. His main legacy was to secure progress on civil rights in the United States, and he has become a human rights icon: King is recognized as a martyr by two Christian churches.[1] A Baptist minister, King became a civil rights activist early in his career.[2] He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, serving as its first president. King's efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. There, he raised public consciousness of the civil rights movement and established himself as one of the greatest orators in U.S. history.

In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and racial discrimination through civil disobedience and other non-violent means. By the time of his death in 1968, he had refocused his efforts on ending poverty and opposing the Vietnam War, both from a religious perspective. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and Congressional Gold Medal in 2004; Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established as a U.S. national holiday in 1986.

Early life

Martin Luther King, Jr., was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. He was the son of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King.[3] King's father was born "Michael King," and Martin Luther King, Jr., was originally named "Michael King, Jr.," until the family traveled to Europe in 1934 and visited Germany. His father soon changed both of their names to Martin Luther in honor of the German Protestant leader Martin Luther.[4] He had an older sister, Willie Christine King, and a younger brother, Alfred Daniel Williams King.[5] King sang with his church choir at the 1939 Atlanta premiere of the movie Gone with the Wind.[6] King was originally skeptical of many Christianity's claims. [7] Most striking, perhaps was his denial of the bodily resurrection of Jesus during Sunday school at the age of thirteen. From this point he stated, "doubts began to spring forth unrelentingly."[8]

King married Coretta Scott, on June 18, 1953, on the lawn of her parents' house in her hometown of Heiberger, Alabama.[9] King and Scott had four children; Yolanda King, Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott King, and Bernice King.[10] King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama when he was twenty-five years old in 1954.[11]

Education

Growing up in Atlanta, King attended Booker T. Washington High School. He skipped ninth and twelfth grade and entered Morehouse College at age fifteen without formally graduating from high school.[12] In 1948, he graduated from Morehouse with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology, and enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1951.[13][14] King then began doctoral studies in systematic theology at Boston University and received his Doctor of Philosophy on June 5, 1955, with a dissertation on "A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman." A 1980s inquiry concluded portions of his dissertation had been plagiarized and he had acted improperly but that his dissertation still "makes an intelligent contribution to scholarship."[15][16]

Influences

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Populist tradition and Black populism

African American topics
Category · Portal

Harry C. Boyte, a self-proclaimed populist, field secretary of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and white civil rights activist describes an episode in his life that gives insight on some of King's influences:

My first encounter with deeper meanings of populism came when I was nineteen, working as a field secretary for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in St. Augustine, Florida in 1964. One day I was caught by five men and a woman who were members of the Ku Klux Klan. They accused me of being a "communist and a Yankee." I replied, "I'm no Yankee – my family has been in the South since before the Revolution. And I'm not a communist. I'm a populist. I believe that blacks and poor whites should join to do something about the big shots who keep us divided." For a few minutes we talked about what such a movement might look like. Then they let me go.

When he learned of the incident, Martin Luther King, head of SCLC, told me that he identified with the populist tradition and assigned me to organize poor whites.[17]

Thurman

Civil rights leader, theologian, and educator Howard Thurman was an early influence on King. A classmate of King's father at Morehouse College,[18] Thurman mentored the young King and his friends.[19] Thurman's missionary work had taken him abroad where he had met and conferred with Mahatma Gandhi.[20] When he was a student at Boston University, King often visited Thurman, who was the dean of Marsh Chapel.[21] Walter Fluker, who has studied Thurman's writings, has stated, "I don't believe you'd get a Martin Luther King, Jr. without a Howard Thurman".[22]

Gandhi and Rustin

Inspired by Gandhi's success with non-violent activism, King visited Gandhi's birthplace in India in 1959, with assistance from the Quaker group the American Friends Service Committee.[23] The trip to India affected King in a profound way, deepening his understanding of non-violent resistance and his commitment to America's struggle for civil rights. In a radio address made during his final evening in India, King reflected, "Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity. In a real sense, Mahatma Gandhi embodied in his life certain universal principles that are inherent in the moral structure of the universe, and these principles are as inescapable as the law of gravitation."[24] African American civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, who had studied Gandhi's teachings,[25] counseled King to dedicate himself to the principles of non-violence,[26] served as King's main advisor and mentor throughout his early activism,[27] and was the main organizer of the 1963 March on Washington.[28] Rustin's open homosexuality, support of democratic socialism, and his former ties to the Communist Party USA caused many white and African-American leaders to demand King distance himself from Rustin.[29]

Sermons and speeches

Throughout his career of service, King wrote and spoke frequently, drawing on his experience as a preacher. His "Letter from Birmingham Jail", written in 1963, is a "passionate" statement of his crusade for justice.[30] On October 14, 1964, King became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to him for leading non-violent resistance to end racial prejudice in the United States.[31]

Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1955

In March 1955, a fifteen-year-old school girl, Claudette Colvin, refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in compliance with the Jim Crow laws. King was on the committee from the Birmingham African-American community that looked into the case; Edgar Nixon and Clifford Durr decided to wait for a better case to pursue.[32] On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat.[33] The Montgomery Bus Boycott, urged and planned by Nixon and led by King, soon followed.[34] The boycott lasted for 385 days,[35] and the situation became so tense that King's house was bombed.[36] King was arrested during this campaign, which ended with a United States District Court ruling in Browder v. Gayle that ended racial segregation on all Montgomery public buses.[37]

Southern Christian Leadership Conference

In 1957, King, Ralph Abernathy, and other civil rights activists founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The group was created to harness the moral authority and organizing power of black churches to conduct non-violent protests in the service of civil rights reform. King led the SCLC until his death.[38] In 1958, while signing copies of his book Stride Toward Freedom in Blumstein's department store on 125th Street, in Harlem,[39][40] he was stabbed in the chest by Izola Curry, a deranged black woman with a letter opener, and narrowly escaped death.[41]

Gandhi's nonviolent techniques were useful to King's campaign to correct the civil rights laws implemented in Alabama.[42] King applied non-violent philosophy to the protests organized by the SCLC. In 1959, he wrote The Measure of A Man, from which the piece What is Man?, an attempt to sketch the optimal political, social, and economic structure of society, is derived.[43] His SCLC secretary and personal assistant in this period was Dora McDonald.

The FBI, under written directive from Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, began telephone tapping King in the Fall of 1963.[44] Concerned that allegations (of Communists in the SCLC), if made public, would derail the Administration's civil rights initiatives, Kennedy warned King to discontinue the suspect associations, and later felt compelled to issue the written directive authorizing the FBI to wiretap King and other leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.[45] J. Edgar Hoover feared Communists were trying to infiltrate the Civil Rights Movement, but when no such evidence emerged, the bureau used the incidental details caught on tape over the next five years in attempts to force King out of the preeminent leadership position.[46]

King believed that organized, nonviolent protest against the system of southern segregation known as Jim Crow laws would lead to extensive media coverage of the struggle for black equality and voting rights. Journalistic accounts and televised footage of the daily deprivation and indignities suffered by southern blacks, and of segregationist violence and harassment of civil rights workers and marchers, produced a wave of sympathetic public opinion that convinced the majority of Americans that the Civil Rights Movement was the most important issue in American politics in the early 1960s.[47]

King organized and led marches for blacks' right to vote, desegregation, labor rights and other basic civil rights.[48] Most of these rights were successfully enacted into the law of the United States with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.[49]

King and the SCLC applied the principles of nonviolent protest with great success by strategically choosing the method of protest and the places in which protests were carried out. There were often dramatic stand-offs with segregationist authorities. Sometimes these confrontations turned violent.[50]

Albany movement

The Albany Movement was a desegregation coalition formed in Albany, Georgia in November, 1961. In December King and the SCLC became involved. The movement mobilized thousands of citizens for a broad-front nonviolent attack on every aspect of segregation within the city and attracted nationwide attention. When King first visited on December 15, 1961, he "had planned to stay a day or so and return home after giving counsel."[51] But the following day he was swept up in a mass arrest of peaceful demonstrators, and he declined bail until the city made concessions. "Those agreements", said King, "were dishonored and violated by the city," as soon as he left town.[51] King returned in July 1962, and was sentenced to forty-five days in jail or a $178 fine. He chose jail. Three days into his sentence, Chief Pritchett discreetly arranged for King's fine to be paid and ordered his release. "We had witnessed persons being kicked off lunch counter stools ... ejected from churches ... and thrown into jail ... But for the first time, we witnessed being kicked out of jail."[51]

After nearly a year of intense activism with few tangible results, the movement began to deteriorate. King requested a halt to all demonstrations and a "Day of Penance" to promote non-violence and maintain the moral high ground. Divisions within the black community and the canny, low-key response by local government defeated efforts.[52] However, it was credited as a key lesson in tactics for the national civil rights movement.[53]

Birmingham campaign

The Birmingham campaign was a strategic effort by the SCLC to promote civil rights for African Americans. Many of its tactics of "Project C" were developed by Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker, Executive Director of SCLC from 1960–1964. Based on actions in Birmingham, Alabama, its goal was to end the city's segregated civil and discriminatory economic policies. The campaign lasted for more than two months in the spring of 1963. To provoke the police into filling the city's jails to overflowing, King and black citizens of Birmingham employed nonviolent tactics to flout laws they considered unfair. King summarized the philosophy of the Birmingham campaign when he said, "The purpose of ... direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation".[54]

Protests in Birmingham began with a boycott to pressure businesses to offer sales jobs and other employment to people of all races, as well as to end segregated facilities in the stores. When business leaders resisted the boycott, King and the SCLC began what they termed Project C, a series of sit-ins and marches intended to provoke arrest. After the campaign ran low on adult volunteers, SCLC's strategist, James Bevel, initiated the action and recruited the children for what became known as the "Children's Crusade". During the protests, the Birmingham Police Department, led by Eugene "Bull" Connor, used high-pressure water jets and police dogs to control protesters, including children. Not all of the demonstrators were peaceful, despite the avowed intentions of the SCLC. In some cases, bystanders attacked the police, who responded with force. King and the SCLC were criticized for putting children in harm's way. By the end of the campaign, King's reputation improved immensely, Connor lost his job, the "Jim Crow" signs in Birmingham came down, and public places became more open to blacks.[55]

Augustine and Selma

King and SCLC were also driving forces behind the protest in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1964.[56] The movement engaged in nightly marches in the city met by white segregationists who violently assaulted them. Hundreds of the marchers were arrested and jailed.

King and the SCLC joined forces with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Selma, Alabama, in December 1964, where SNCC had been working on voter registration for several months.[57] A sweeping injunction issued by a local judge barred any gathering of 3 or more people under sponsorship of SNCC, SCLC, or DCVL, or with the involvement of 41 named civil rights leaders. This injunction temporarily halted civil rights activity until King defied it by speaking at Brown Chapel on January 2 1965.[58]

March on Washington, 1963

King, representing SCLC, was among the leaders of the so-called "Big Six" civil rights organizations who were instrumental in the organization of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which took place on August 28, 1963. The other leaders and organizations comprising the Big Six were: Roy Wilkins from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Whitney Young, National Urban League; A. Philip Randolph, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; John Lewis, SNCC; and James L. Farmer, Jr. of the Congress of Racial Equality.[59] The primary logistical and strategic organizer was King's colleague Bayard Rustin.[60] For King, this role was another which courted controversy, since he was one of the key figures who acceded to the wishes of President John F. Kennedy in changing the focus of the march.[61] Kennedy initially opposed the march outright, because he was concerned it would negatively impact the drive for passage of civil rights legislation, but the organizers were firm that the march would proceed.[62]

The march originally was conceived as an event to dramatize the desperate condition of blacks in the southern United States and a very public opportunity to place organizers' concerns and grievances squarely before the seat of power in the nation's capital. Organizers intended to excoriate and then challenge the federal government for its failure to safeguard the civil rights and physical safety of civil rights workers and blacks, generally, in the South. However, the group acquiesced to presidential pressure and influence, and the event ultimately took on a far less strident tone.[63] As a result, some civil rights activists felt it presented an inaccurate, sanitized pageant of racial harmony; Malcolm X called it the "Farce on Washington," and members of the Nation of Islam were not permitted to attend the march.[63][64]

King is perhaps most famous for his "I Have a Dream" speech, given in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
MLKDream.ogg
audio recording of King's I Have a Dream speech

The march did, however, make specific demands: an end to racial segregation in public school; meaningful civil rights legislation, including a law prohibiting racial discrimination in employment; protection of civil rights workers from police brutality; a $2 minimum wage for all workers; and self-government for Washington, D.C., then governed by congressional committee.[65] Despite tensions, the march was a resounding success. More than a quarter million people of diverse ethnicities attended the event, sprawling from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial onto the National Mall and around the reflecting pool. At the time, it was the largest gathering of protesters in Washington's history.[66] King's "I Have a Dream" speech electrified the crowd. It is regarded, along with Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and Franklin D. Roosevelt's Infamy Speech, as one of the finest speeches in the history of American oratory.[67]

Stance on compensation

King giving a lecture on March 26, 1964

Martin Luther King Jr. expressed a view that black Americans, as well as other disadvantaged Americans, should be compensated for historical wrongs. In an interview conducted for Playboy in 1965, he said that granting black Americans only equality could not realistically close the economic gap between them and whites. King said that he did not seek a full restitution of wages lost to slavery, which he believed impossible, but proposed a government compensatory program of US$50 billion over ten years to all disadvantaged groups. He posited that "the money spent would be more than amply justified by the benefits that would accrue to the nation through a spectacular decline in school dropouts, family breakups, crime rates, illegitimacy, swollen relief rolls, rioting and other social evils".[68] He presented this idea as an application of the common law regarding settlement of unpaid labor but clarified that he felt that the money should not be spent exclusively on blacks. He stated, "It should benefit the disadvantaged of all races".[69]

"Bloody Sunday", 1965

King, James Bevel, and the SCLC, in partial collaboration with SNCC, attempted to organize a march from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery, for March 7, 1965. The first attempt to march on March 7 was aborted because of mob and police violence against the demonstrators. This day has since become known as Bloody Sunday. Bloody Sunday was a major turning point in the effort to gain public support for the Civil Rights Movement, the clearest demonstration up to that time of the dramatic potential of King's nonviolence strategy. King, however, was not present. After meeting with President Lyndon B. Johnson, he decided not to endorse the march, but it was carried out against his wishes and without his presence on March 7 by the director of the Selma Movement, James Bevel, and by local civil rights leaders. Footage of police brutality against the protesters was broadcast extensively and aroused national public outrage.[70]

King next attempted to organize a march for March 9. The SCLC petitioned for an injunction in federal court against the State of Alabama; this was denied and the judge issued an order blocking the march until after a hearing. Nonetheless, King led marchers on March 9 to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, then held a short prayer session before turning the marchers around and asking them to disperse so as not to violate the court order. The unexpected ending of this second march aroused the surprise and anger of many within the local movement.[71] The march finally went ahead fully on March 25.[72] At the conclusion of the march and on the steps of the state capitol, King delivered a speech that has become known as "How Long, Not Long".[73]

Chicago, 1966

King with President Lyndon Johnson in 1966

In 1966, after several successes in the South, King and others in the civil rights organizations tried to spread the movement to the North, with Chicago as its first destination. King and Ralph Abernathy, both from the middle classes, moved into the slums of North Lawndale[74] on the west side of Chicago as an educational experience and to demonstrate their support and empathy for the poor.[75]

The SCLC formed a coalition with CCCO, Coordinating Council of Community Organizations, an organization founded by Albert Raby, and the combined organizations' efforts were fostered under the aegis of The Chicago Freedom Movement.[76] During that spring, several dual white couple/black couple tests on real estate offices uncovered the practice (now banned in the U.S.) of racial steering. These tests revealed the racially selective processing of housing requests by couples who were exact matches in income, background, number of children, and other attributes, with the only difference being their race.[77]

The needs of the movement for radical change grew, and several larger marches were planned and executed, including those in the following neighborhoods: Bogan, Belmont Cragin, Jefferson Park, Evergreen Park (a suburb southwest of Chicago), Gage Park and Marquette Park, among others.[78]

In Chicago, Abernathy later wrote that they received a worse reception than they had in the South. Their marches were met by thrown bottles and screaming throngs, and they were truly afraid of starting a riot.[79] King's beliefs mitigated against his staging a violent event, and he negotiated an agreement with Mayor Richard J. Daley to cancel a march in order to avoid the violence that he feared would result from the demonstration.[80] King, who received death threats throughout his involvement in the civil rights movement, was hit by a brick during one march but continued to lead marches in the face of personal danger.[81]

When King and his allies returned to the south, they left Jesse Jackson, a seminary student who had previously joined the movement in the South, in charge of their organization.[82] Jackson continued their struggle for civil rights by organizing the Operation Breadbasket movement that targeted chain stores that did not deal fairly with blacks.[83]

Opposition to the Vietnam War

Starting in 1965, King began to express doubts about the United States' role in the Vietnam War. In an April 4, 1967 appearance at the New York City Riverside Church—exactly one year before his death—King delivered a speech titled "Beyond Vietnam".[84] In the speech, he spoke strongly against the U.S.'s role in the war, insisting that the U.S. was in Vietnam "to occupy it as an American colony"[85] and calling the U.S. government "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today".[86] He also argued that the country needed larger and broader moral changes:

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just."[87]

King also was opposed to the Vietnam War on the grounds that the war took money and resources that could have been spent on social welfare services like the War on Poverty. The United States Congress was spending more and more on the military and less and less on anti-poverty programs at the same time. He summed up this aspect by saying, "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death".[87]

Many white southern segregationists vilified King; moreover, this speech soured his relationship with many members of the mainstream media. Life magazine called the speech "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi",[84] and The Washington Post declared that King had "diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."[88]

King stated that North Vietnam "did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had arrived in the tens of thousands".[89] King also criticized the United States' resistance to North Vietnam's land reforms.[90] He accused the United States of having killed a million Vietnamese, "mostly children."[91]

The speech was a reflection of King's evolving political advocacy in his later years, which paralleled the teachings of the progressive Highlander Research and Education Center, with whom King was affiliated.[92] King began to speak of the need for fundamental changes in the political and economic life of the nation. Towards the time of his murder, King more frequently expressed his opposition to the war and his desire to see a redistribution of resources to correct racial and economic injustice.[93] Though his public language was guarded, so as to avoid being linked to communism by his political enemies, in private he sometimes spoke of his support for democratic socialism. In one speech, he stated that "something is wrong with capitalism" and claimed, "There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism."[94]

King had read Marx while at Morehouse, but while he rejected "traditional capitalism," he also rejected Communism because of its "materialistic interpretation of history" that denied religion, its "ethical relativism," and its "political totalitarianism."[95]

King also stated in his "Beyond Vietnam" speech that "true compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar....it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring".[96] King quoted a United States official, who said that, from Vietnam to South America to Latin America, the country was "on the wrong side of a world revolution."[96] King condemned America's "alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America," and said that the United States should support "the shirtless and barefoot people" in the Third World rather than suppressing their attempts at revolution.[97]

King spoke at an Anti-Vietnam demonstration where he also brought up issues of civil rights and the draft.

"I have not urged a mechanical fusion of the civil rights and peace movements. There are people who have come to see the moral imperative of equality, but who cannot yet see the moral imperative of world brotherhood. I would like to see the fervor of the civil-rights movement imbued into the peace movement to instill it with greater strength. And I believe everyone has a duty to be in both the civil-rights and peace movements. But for those who presently choose but one, I would hope they will finally come to see the moral roots common to both."[98]

In 1967, King gave another speech, in which he lashed out against what he called the "cruel irony" of American blacks fighting and dying for a country which treated them as second class citizens:

"We were taking the young black men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties which they had not found in Southwest Georgia and East Harlem.... We have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them in the same schools"[99][100]

Poor People's Campaign, 1968

In 1968, King and the SCLC organized the "Poor People's Campaign" to address issues of economic justice. The campaign culminated in a march on Washington, D.C. demanding economic aid to the poorest communities of the United States. King traveled the country to assemble "a multiracial army of the poor" that would march on Washington to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol until Congress created a bill of rights for poor Americans.[101][102]

However, the campaign was not unanimously supported by other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Rustin resigned from the march stating that the goals of the campaign were too broad, the demands unrealizable, and thought these campaigns would accelerate the backlash and repression on the poor and the black.[103] Throughout his participation in the civil rights movement, King was criticized by many groups. This included opposition by more militant blacks and such prominent critics as Nation of Islam member Malcolm X.[104] Stokely Carmichael was a separatist and disagreed with King's plea for racial integration because he considered it an insult to a uniquely African-American culture.[105] Omali Yeshitela urged Africans to remember the history of violent European colonization and how power was not secured by Europeans through integration, but by violence and force.[106]

King and the SCLC called on the government to invest in rebuilding America's cities. He felt that Congress had shown "hostility to the poor" by spending "military funds with alacrity and generosity". He contrasted this with the situation faced by poor Americans, claiming that Congress had merely provided "poverty funds with miserliness".[102] His vision was for change that was more revolutionary than mere reform: he cited systematic flaws of "racism, poverty, militarism and materialism", and argued that "reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced".[107]

Assassination

The Lorraine Motel, where King was assassinated, is now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum.

On March 29, 1968, King went to Memphis, Tennessee in support of the black sanitary public works employees, represented by AFSCME Local 1733, who had been on strike since March 12 for higher wages and better treatment. In one incident, black street repairmen received pay for two hours when they were sent home because of bad weather, but white employees were paid for the full day.[108][109]

On April 3, King addressed a rally and delivered his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" address at Mason Temple, the world headquarters of the Church of God in Christ. King's flight to Memphis had been delayed by a bomb threat against his plane.[110] In the close of the last speech of his career, in reference to the bomb threat, King said the following:

And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers? Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.[111]

King was booked in room 306 at the Lorraine Motel, owned by Walter Bailey, in Memphis. The Reverend Ralph Abernathy, King's close friend and colleague who was present at the assassination, swore under oath to the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations that King and his entourage stayed at room 306 at the Lorraine Motel so often it was known as the "King-Abernathy suite."[112]

According to Jesse Jackson, who was present, King's last words on the balcony prior to his assassination were spoken to musician Ben Branch, who was scheduled to perform that night at an event King was attending: "Ben, make sure you play "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty."[113]

Then, at 6:01 p.m., April 4, 1968, a shot rang out as King stood on the motel's second floor balcony. The bullet entered through his right cheek smashing his jaw and then traveled down his spinal cord before lodging in his shoulder.[114] Abernathy heard the shot from inside the motel room and ran to the balcony to find King on the floor.[115] The events following the shooting have been disputed, as some people have accused Jackson of exaggerating his response.[116]

After emergency chest surgery, King was pronounced dead at St. Joseph's Hospital at 7:05 p.m.[117] According to biographer Taylor Branch, King's autopsy revealed that though only thirty-nine years old, he had the heart of a sixty-year-old man, perhaps a result of the stress of thirteen years in the civil rights movement.[118]

The assassination led to a nationwide wave of riots in more than 100 cities.[119] Presidential nominee Robert Kennedy was on his way to Indianapolis for a campaign rally when he was informed of King's death. He gave a short speech to the gathering of supporters informing them of the tragedy and asking them to continue King's idea of non-violence.[120] President Lyndon B. Johnson declared April 7 a national day of mourning for the civil rights leader.[121] Vice-President Hubert Humphrey attended King's funeral on behalf of Lyndon B. Johnson, as there were fears that Johnson's presence might incite protests and perhaps violence.[122] At his widow's request, King's last sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church was played at the funeral.[123] It was a recording of his "Drum Major" sermon, given on February 4, 1968. In that sermon, King made a request that at his funeral no mention of his awards and honors be made, but that it be said that he tried to "feed the hungry", "clothe the naked", "be right on the [Vietnam] war question", and "love and serve humanity".[124] His good friend Mahalia Jackson sang his favorite hymn, "Take My Hand, Precious Lord", at the funeral.[125] The city of Memphis quickly settled the strike on terms favorable to the sanitation workers.[126][127]

Two months after King's death, escaped convict James Earl Ray was captured at London Heathrow Airport while trying to leave the United Kingdom on a false Canadian passport in the name of Ramon George Sneyd on his way to white-ruled Rhodesia.[128] Ray was quickly extradited to Tennessee and charged with King's murder. He confessed to the assassination on March 10, 1969, though he recanted this confession three days later.[129] On the advice of his attorney Percy Foreman, Ray pleaded guilty to avoid a trial conviction and thus the possibility of receiving the death penalty. Ray was sentenced to a 99-year prison term.[129][130] Ray fired Foreman as his attorney, from then on derisively calling him "Percy Fourflusher".[131] He claimed a man he met in Montreal, Quebec with the alias "Raoul" was involved and that the assassination was the result of a conspiracy.[132][133] He spent the remainder of his life attempting (unsuccessfully) to withdraw his guilty plea and secure the trial he never had.[130] On June 10, 1977, shortly after Ray had testified to the House Select Committee on Assassinations that he did not shoot King, he and six other convicts escaped from Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in Petros, Tennessee. They were recaptured on June 13 and returned to prison.[134]

Allegations of conspiracy

Ray's lawyers maintained he was a scapegoat similar to the way that alleged John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald is seen by conspiracy theorists.[135] One of the claims used to support this assertion is that Ray's confession was given under pressure, and he had been threatened with the death penalty.[130][136] Ray was a thief and burglar, but he had no record of committing violent crimes with a weapon.[133]

Those suspecting a conspiracy in the assassination point out the two separate ballistics tests conducted on the Remington Gamemaster recovered by police had neither conclusively proved Ray had been the killer nor that it had even been the murder weapon.[130][137] Moreover, witnesses surrounding King at the moment of his death say the shot came from another location, from behind thick shrubbery near the rooming house – which had been inexplicably cut away in the days following the assassination – and not from the rooming house window.[138]

Martin Luther King's & Coretta Scott King's tomb, located on the grounds of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site

Developments

In 1997, King's son Dexter Scott King met with Ray, and publicly supported Ray's efforts to obtain a new trial.[139] Two years later, Coretta Scott King, King's widow, along with the rest of King's family, won a wrongful death claim against Loyd Jowers and "other unknown co-conspirators". Jowers claimed to have received $100,000 to arrange King's assassination. The jury of six whites and six blacks found Jowers guilty and that government agencies were party to the assassination.[140] William F. Pepper represented the King family in the trial.[141] King biographer David Garrow disagrees with William F. Pepper's claims that the government killed King.[142] He is supported by author Gerald Posner who has researched and written about the assassination.[143]

In 2000, the United States Department of Justice completed the investigation about Jowers' claims but did not find evidence to support allegations about conspiracy. The investigation report recommended no further investigation unless some new reliable facts are presented.[144] The New York Times reported a church minister, Rev. Ronald Denton Wilson, claimed his father, Henry Clay Wilson—not James Earl Ray—assassinated Martin Luther King, Jr. He stated, "It wasn't a racist thing; he thought Martin Luther King was connected with communism, and he wanted to get him out of the way."[145]

King's friend and colleague, James Bevel, disputed the argument that Ray acted alone, stating, "There is no way a ten-cent white boy could develop a plan to kill a million-dollar black man."[146] In 2004, Jesse Jackson, who was with King at the time of his death, noted:

The fact is there were saboteurs to disrupt the march. And within our own organization, we found a very key person who was on the government payroll. So infiltration within, saboteurs from without and the press attacks. ...I will never believe that James Earl Ray had the motive, the money and the mobility to have done it himself. Our government was very involved in setting the stage for and I think the escape route for James Earl Ray.[147]

Riots

After King's assassination riots broke out in Chicago, Boston, Detroit, and Washington. Black leader James Farmer, Jr. and others called for non-violent action. "Dr. King would be greatly distressed to find that his blood had triggered off bloodshed and disorder... I think instead the nation should be quiet; black and white, and we should be in a prayerful mood, which would be in keeping with his life. We should make that kind of dedication and commitment to the goals which his life served to solving the domestic problems. That's the memorial, that's the kind of memorial we should build for him. It's just not appropriate for there to be violent retaliations, and that kind of demonstration in the wake of the murder of this pacifist and man of peace."[148]

Stokely Carmichael called for immediate forceful action. "White America killed Dr. King last night. She made a whole lot easier for a whole lot of black people today. There no longer needs to be intellectual discussions, black people know that they have to get guns. White America will live to cry that she killed Dr. King last night. It would have been better if she had killed Rap Brown and/or Stokley Carmichael, but when she killed Dr. King, she lost."[148]

FBI and wiretapping

Allegations of Communist connections

J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for years had been suspicious about potential influence of communists in social movements such as labor unions and civil rights.[149] Hoover directed the FBI to track King in 1957, and the SCLC as it was established (it did not have a full-time executive director until 1960);[46] its investigations were largely superficial until 1962, when it learned that one of King's most trusted advisers was New York City lawyer Stanley Levison. The FBI found Levison had been involved with the Communist Party USA.[150] The FBI had observed his alienation from the Party leadership, but it feared he had taken a low profile in order to work as an "agent of influence" in order to manipulate King, a view it continued to hold despite its own reports in 1963 that Levison had left the Party.[151] Another King lieutenant, Hunter Pitts O'Dell, was also linked to the Communist Party by sworn testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).[152] However, by 1976 the FBI had acknowledged that it had not obtained any evidence that King himself or the SCLC were actually involved with any communist organizations.[153]

The Bureau received authorization to proceed with wiretapping from Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in the Fall of 1963[154] and informed President John F. Kennedy, both of whom unsuccessfully tried to persuade King to dissociate himself from Levison.[155] Although Robert Kennedy only gave written approval for limited wiretapping of King's phones "on a trial basis, for a month or so",[156] Hoover extended the clearance so his men were "unshackled" to look for evidence in any areas of King's life they deemed worthy.[157] The Bureau placed wiretaps on Levison's and King's home and office phones, and bugged King's rooms in hotels as he traveled across the country.[155][158]

For his part, King adamantly denied having any connections to Communism, stating in a 1965 Playboy interview that "there are as many Communists in this freedom movement as there are Eskimos in Florida",[159] and claiming that Hoover was "following the path of appeasement of political powers in the South" and that his concern for communist infiltration of the civil rights movement was meant to "aid and abet the salacious claims of southern racists and the extreme right-wing elements".[153] Hoover did not believe his pledge of innocence and replied by saying that King was "the most notorious liar in the country."[160] After King gave his "I Have A Dream" speech during the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, the FBI described King as "the most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country".[158] In December 1963, FBI officials who were gathered to a special conference alleged that King was "knowingly, willingly and regularly cooperating with and taking guidance from communists" whose long-term strategy was to create of a "Negro-labor" coalition detrimental to American security.[161]

The attempt to prove that King was a Communist was related to the feeling of many segregationists that blacks in the South were happy with their lot but had been stirred up by "communists" and "outside agitators".[162] The civil rights movement arose from activism within the black community dating back to before World War I. Levison did have ties with the Communist Party in various business dealings, but the FBI refused to believe its own intelligence bureau reports that Levison was no longer associated in that capacity.[163] In response to the FBI's comments regarding communists directing the civil rights movement, King said that "the Negro revolution is a genuine revolution, born from the same womb that produces all massive social upheavals—the womb of intolerable conditions and unendurable situations."[164]

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, March 26, 1964.

Allegations of adultery

Having concluded that King was dangerous due to communist infiltration, the focus of the Bureau's investigations shifted to attempting to discredit King through revelations regarding his private life. FBI surveillance of King, some of it since made public, attempted to demonstrate that he also engaged in numerous extramarital affairs.[158] Further remarks on King's lifestyle were made by several prominent officials, such as Lyndon Johnson, who once said that King was a "hypocritical preacher".[165] Ralph Abernathy, a close associate of King's, stated in his 1989 autobiography And the Walls Came Tumbling Down that King had a "weakness for women".[166][167] In a later interview, Abernathy said he only wrote the term "womanizing", and did not specifically say King had extramarital sex.[168] King's biographer David Garrow detailed what he called King's "compulsive sexual athleticism." Garrow wrote about numerous extramarital affairs, including one with a woman King saw almost daily. According to Garrow, "that relationship, rather than his marriage, increasingly became the emotional centerpiece of King's life, but it did not eliminate the incidental couplings that were a commonplace of King's travels." King explained his extramarital affairs as "a form of anxiety reduction." Garrow noted that King's promiscuity was the cause of "painful and overwhelming guilt".[169]

The FBI distributed reports regarding such affairs to the executive branch, friendly reporters, potential coalition partners and funding sources of the SCLC, and King's family.[170] The Bureau also sent anonymous letters to King threatening to reveal information if he did not cease his civil rights work.[171] One anonymous letter sent to King just before he received the Nobel Peace Prize read, in part, "The American public, the church organizations that have been helping—Protestants, Catholics and Jews will know you for what you are—an evil beast. So will others who have backed you. You are done. King, there, is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. You have just 34 days in which to do (this exact number has been selected for a specific reason, it has definite practical significant [sic]). You are done. There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy fraudulent self is bared to the nation."[172] King interpreted this as encouragement for him to commit suicide,[173] although William Sullivan, head of the Domestic Intelligence Division at the time, argued that it may have only been intended to "convince Dr. King to resign from the SCLC."[153] King refused to give in to the FBI's threats.[174]

On January 31, 1977, United States district Judge John Lewis Smith, Jr., ordered all known copies of the recorded audiotapes and written transcripts resulting from the FBI's electronic surveillance of King between 1963 and 1968 to be held in the National Archives and sealed from public access until 2027.[175]

Across from the Lorraine Motel, next to the rooming house in which James Earl Ray was staying, was a fire station. Police officers were stationed in the fire station to keep King under surveillance.[176] Using papered-over windows with peepholes cut into them, the agents were watching the scene while Martin Luther King was shot.[177] Immediately following the shooting, officers rushed out of the station to the motel, and Marrell McCollough, an undercover police officer, was the first person to administer first-aid to King.[178] The antagonism between King and the FBI, the lack of an all points bulletin to find the killer, and the police presence nearby have led to speculation that the FBI was involved in the assassination.[179]

Legacy

From the Gallery of 20th Century Martyrs at Westminster Abbey—l. to r. Mother Elizabeth of Russia, Rev. Martin Luther King, Archbishop Oscar Romero and Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer

King's main legacy was to secure progress on civil rights in the United States, which has enabled more Americans to reach their potential. He is frequently referenced as a human rights icon today. His name and legacy have often been invoked since his death as people have debated his likely position on various modern political issues.

On the international scene, King's legacy included influences on the Black Consciousness Movement and Civil Rights Movement in South Africa.[180] King's work was cited by and served as an inspiration for Albert Lutuli, another black Nobel Peace prize winner who fought for racial justice in that country.[181] The day following King's assassination, school teacher Jane Elliott conducted her first "Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes" exercise with her class of elementary school students in Riceville, Iowa. Her purpose was to help them understand King's death as it related to racism, something they little understood from having lived in a predominately white community.[182]

King's wife, Coretta Scott King, followed her husband's footsteps and was active in matters of social justice and civil rights until her death in 2006. The same year that Martin Luther King was assassinated, Mrs. King established the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia, dedicated to preserving his legacy and the work of championing nonviolent conflict resolution and tolerance worldwide.[183] His son, Dexter King, currently serves as the center's chairman.[184] Daughter Yolanda King is a motivational speaker, author and founder of Higher Ground Productions, an organization specializing in diversity training.[185]

There are opposing views even within the King family — regarding the slain civil rights leader's religious and political views about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. King's widow Coretta said publicly that she believed her husband would have supported gay rights. However, his daughter Bernice believed he would have been opposed to gay marriage.[186] The King Center includes discrimination, and lists homophobia as one of its examples, in its list of "The Triple Evils" that should be opposed.[187]

In 1980, the Department of Interior designated King's boyhood home in Atlanta and several nearby buildings the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. In 1996, United States Congress authorized the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity to establish a foundation to manage fund raising and design of a Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial on the Mall in Washington, DC.[188] King was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established by and for African Americans.[189] King was the first African American honored with his own memorial in the National Mall area and the first non-President to be commemorated in such a way.[190] The sculptor chosen was Lei Yixin.[191] The King Memorial will be administered by the National Park Service.[192]

King's life and assassination inspired many artistic works. A 1976 Broadway production, I Have a Dream, was directed by Robert Greenwald and starred Billy Dee Williams as King.[193] In spring of 2006, a stage play about King was produced in Beijing, China with King portrayed by Chinese actor, Cao Li. The play was written by Stanford University professor, Clayborne Carson.[194]


King spoke earlier about what people should remember him for if they are around for his funeral. He said rather than his awards and where he went to school, people should talk about how he fought peacefully for justice.:

I'd like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others. I'd like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody.

I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. And I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major. Say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter."1968 Year In Review, UPI.com"

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

At the White House Rose Garden on November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor King. Observed for the first time on January 20, 1986, it is called Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Following President George H. W. Bush's 1992 proclamation, the holiday is observed on the third Monday of January each year, near the time of King's birthday.[195] On January 17, 2000, for the first time, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was officially observed in all fifty U.S. states.[196]

Awards and recognition

King was awarded at least fifty honorary degrees from colleges and universities in the U.S. and elsewhere.[15][197] Besides winning the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, in 1965 King was awarded the American Liberties Medallion by the American Jewish Committee for his "exceptional advancement of the principles of human liberty".[197][198] Reverend King said in his acceptance remarks, "Freedom is one thing. You have it all or you are not free".[199] King was also awarded the Pacem in Terris Award, named after a 1963 encyclical letter by Pope John XXIII calling for all people to strive for peace.[200]

In 1966, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America awarded King the Margaret Sanger Award for "his courageous resistance to bigotry and his lifelong dedication to the advancement of social justice and human dignity."[201] King was posthumously awarded the Marcus Garvey Prize for Human Rights by Jamaica in 1968.[15]

In 1971, King was posthumously awarded the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for his Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam.[202] Six years later, the Presidential Medal of Freedom was awarded to King by Jimmy Carter.[203] King and his wife were also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.[204]

King was second in Gallup's List of Widely Admired People in the 20th century.[205] In 1963 King was named Time Person of the Year and in 2000, King was voted sixth in the Person of the Century poll by the same magazine.[206] King was elected third in the Greatest American contest conducted by the Discovery Channel and AOL.[207]

More than 730 cities in the United States have streets named after King.[208] King County, Washington rededicated its name in his honor in 1986, and changed its logo to an image of his face in 2007.[209] The city government center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is named in honor of King.[210] King is remembered as a martyr by the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (feast day April 4)[1][211] and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (feast day January 15).[212]

In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Martin Luther King, Jr. on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.[213]

Capital memorial

A memorial to King has been planned for construction on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., by the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation. In April 2009, the media reported that King's family had charged the Foundation $800,000 for the use of his words and image in fund-raising materials for the memorial.[214]

Intellectual Properties Management Inc., an organization operated by King's family, has been charging the Foundation licensing and management fees since 2003. Cambridge University historian David Garrow, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of King, said of King's family's behavior, "One would think any family would be so thrilled to have their forefather celebrated and memorialized in D.C. that it would never dawn on them to ask for a penny." He added that King would have been "absolutely scandalized by the profiteering behavior of his children." King's family responded that the money would be used to maintain the King Center in Atlanta where King and his wife are entombed.[214][215][216]

Bibliography

  • Stride toward freedom; the Montgomery story (1958)
  • The Measure of a Man (1959)
  • Strength to Love (1963)
  • Why We Can't Wait (1964)
  • Where do we go from here: Chaos or community? (1967)
  • The Trumpet of Conscience (1968)
  • A Testament of Hope : The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. (1986)
  • The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (1998), ed. Clayborne Carson

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b The Episcopal and Lutheran Churches in the USA have feast days dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr., on 4th April and 15th January respectively, as per the Calendar of saints (Episcopal Church in the United States of America), and Calendar of Saints (Lutheran). Neither church has a formal canonization process, and King Jr. is recognized as a martyr in both churches. There is a statue of King Jr. in the Gallery of 20th Century Martyrs at Westminster Abbey, London.
  2. ^ Lischer, Richard. (2001). The Preacher King, p. 3.
  3. ^ Ogletree, Charles J. (2004). All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half Century of Brown v. Board of Education. W.W. Norton & Company. pp. 138. ISBN 0393058972. 
  4. ^ Ling, Peter J. (2002). Martin Luther King, Jr.. Routledge. pp. 11. ISBN 0415216648. 
  5. ^ King, Jr., Martin Luther; Clayborne Carson; Peter Holloran; Ralph Luker; Penny A. Russell (1992). The papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.. University of California Press. pp. 76. ISBN 0520079507. 
  6. ^ Katznelson, Ira (2005). When Affirmative Action was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America. W.W. Norton & Company. pp. 5. ISBN 0393052133. 
  7. ^ "King’s God: The Unknown Faith of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.". Tikkun Magazine. http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/nov_dec_09_scofield. Retrieved 2010-02-08. 
  8. ^ Carson, Clayborne (1998). The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr.. Warner Books. pp. 6. ISBN 0446524123. 
  9. ^ "Coretta Scott King". Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1509338/Coretta-Scott-King.html. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  10. ^ Warren, Mervyn A. (2001). King Came Preaching: The Pulpit Power of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. InterVarsity Press. pp. 35. ISBN 0830826580. 
  11. ^ Fuller, Linda K. (2004). National Days/National Ways: Historical, Political, And Religious Celebrations around the World. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 314. ISBN 0275972704. 
  12. ^ Ching, Jacqueline (2002). The Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.. Rosen Publishing Group. pp. 18. ISBN 0823935434. 
  13. ^ Downing, Frederick L. (1986). To See the Promised Land: The Faith Pilgrimage of Martin Luther King, Jr. Mercer University Press. pp. 150. ISBN 0865542074. 
  14. ^ Nojeim, Michael J. (2004). Gandhi and King: The Power of Nonviolent Resistance. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 179. ISBN 0275965740. 
  15. ^ a b c "Biographical Outline of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.". The King Center. http://www.thekingcenter.org/mlk/bio.html. Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
  16. ^ See Martin Luther King, Jr. authorship issues. See also: Baldwin, Lewis V. (1992). To Make the Wounded Whole: The Cultural Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.. Fortress Press. pp. 298. ISBN 0800625439. , "Boston U. Panel Finds Plagiarism by Dr. King". The New York Times. 1991-10-11. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CEFD61030F932A25753C1A967958260. Retrieved 2008-06-14. , Heller, Steven; Veronique Vienne (2003). Citizen Designer: Perspectives on Design Responsibility. Allworth Communications, Inc.. pp. 156. ISBN 1581152655. 
  17. ^ http://ginsberg.umich.edu/downloads/Boyte_Dewey_Lecture2007.doc
  18. ^ Thurman, Howard (1981). With Head and Heart: The Autobiography of Howard Thurman. Harcourt. pp. 254. ISBN 015697648X. 
  19. ^ Thurman, Howard; Walter E. Fluker; Catherine Tumber (1998). A Strange Freedom: The Best of Howard Thurman on Religious Experience and Public Life. Beacon Press. pp. 6. ISBN 080701057X. 
  20. ^ Curtis, Nancy C. (1996). Black Heritage Sites: An African American Odyssey and Finder's Guide. ALA Editions. pp. 62. ISBN 0838906435. 
  21. ^ Marsh, Charles (1999). God's Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Rights. Princeton University Press. pp. 122. ISBN 0691029407. 
  22. ^ "The Legacy of Howard Thurman — Mystic and Theologian". Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. PBS. 2002-01-18. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week520/feature.html. Retrieved 2008-08-27. 
  23. ^ King, Jr., Martin Luther; Clayborne Carson; Peter Holloran; Ralph Luker; Penny A. Russell (1992). The papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.. University of California Press. pp. 3. ISBN 0520079507. 
  24. ^ King, Jr., Martin Luther; Clayborne Carson; Peter Holloran; Ralph Luker; Penny A. Russell (1992). The papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.. University of California Press. pp. 135–136. ISBN 0520079507. 
  25. ^ Kahlenberg, Richard D.. "Book Review: Bayard Rustin: Troubles I've Seen". Washington Monthly. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1316/is_n4_v29/ai_19279952. Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  26. ^ Bennett, Scott H. (2003). Radical Pacifism: The War Resisters League and Gandhian Nonviolence in America, 1915-1963. Syracuse University Press. pp. 217. ISBN 0815630034. 
  27. ^ Farrell, James J. (1997). The Spirit of the Sixties: Making Postwar Radicalism. Routledge. pp. 90. ISBN 0415913853. 
  28. ^ De Leon, David (1994). Leaders from the 1960s: a biographical sourcebook of American activism. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 138. ISBN 0313274142. 
  29. ^ Arsenault, Raymond (2006). Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice. Oxford University Press US. pp. 62. ISBN 0195136748. 
  30. ^ Galchutt, Kathryn M. (2005). The Career of Andrew Schulze, 1924-1968: Lutherans And Race in the Civil Rights Era. Mercer University Press. pp. 194. ISBN 086554946X. 
  31. ^ Wintle, Justin (2001). Makers of Modern Culture: Makers of Culture. Routledge. pp. 272. ISBN 0415265835. 
  32. ^ Manheimer, Ann S. (2004). Martin Luther King Jr: Dreaming of Equality. Twenty-First Century Books. pp. 103. ISBN 1575056275. 
  33. ^ "December 1, 1955: Rosa Parks arrested". CNN. 2003-03-11. http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/03/10/sprj.80.1955.parks/index.html. Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
  34. ^ Walsh, Frank (2003). The Montgomery Bus Boycott. Gareth Stevens. pp. 24. ISBN 0836854039. 
  35. ^ McMahon, Thomas F. (2004). Ethical Leadership Through Transforming Justice. University Press of America. pp. 25. ISBN 0761829083. 
  36. ^ Fisk, Larry J.; John Schellenberg (1999). Patterns of Conflict, Paths to Peace. Broadview Press. pp. 115. ISBN 1551111543. 
  37. ^ King, Jr., Martin Luther; Clayborne Carson; Peter Holloran; Ralph Luker; Penny A. Russell (1992). The papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.. University of California Press. pp. 9. ISBN 0520079507.  See also: Jackson, Thomas F. (2007). From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 53. ISBN 0812239695. 
  38. ^ Marable, Manning; Leith Mullings (2000). Let Nobody Turn Us Around: Voices of Resistance, Reform, and Renewal: an African American Anthology. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 391–392. ISBN 084768346X. 
  39. ^ Pearson, Hugh. When Harlem Nearly Killed King: The 1958 Stabbing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2002), p.37.
  40. ^ Google Books extract of Pearson
  41. ^ Vivian, Octavia (2006). Coretta: The Story of Coretta Scott King. Fortress Press. pp. 45. ISBN 0800638557. 
  42. ^ "New Sitdowns Stir Violence in Tennessee". The Chicago Daily Tribune. April 12, 1960. 
  43. ^ King, Jr., Martin Luther (1988). The Measure of a Man. Fortress Press. pp. 9. ISBN 0800608771. 
  44. ^ Theoharis, Athan G.; Tony G. Poveda; Richard Gid Powers; Susan Rosenfeld (1999). The FBI: A Comprehensive Reference Guide. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 148. ISBN 089774991X. 
  45. ^ Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s, Basic Books: New York, New York. ISBN 0-46504-195-7. p 41
  46. ^ a b Theoharis, Athan G.; Tony G. Poveda; Richard Gid Powers; Susan Rosenfeld (1999). The FBI: A Comprehensive Reference Guide. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 123. ISBN 089774991X. 
  47. ^ Wilson, Joseph; Manning Marable; Immanuel Ness (2006). Race and Labor Matters in the New U.S. Economy. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 47. ISBN 0742546918.  See also: Schofield, Norman (2006). Architects of Political Change: Constitutional Quandaries and Social Choice Theory. Cambridge University Press. pp. 189. ISBN 0521832020. 
  48. ^ Jackson, Thomas F. (2007). From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 85. ISBN 0812239695. 
  49. ^ Shafritz, Jay M. (1998). International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration. Westview Press. pp. 1242. ISBN 0813399742.  See also: Loevy, Robert D.; Hubert H. Humphrey; John G. Stewart (1997). The Civil Rights Act of 1964: The Passage of the Law that Ended Racial Segregation. SUNY Press. pp. 337. ISBN 0791433617. 
  50. ^ Glisson, Susan M. (2006). The Human Tradition in the Civil Rights Movement. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 190. ISBN 0742544095. 
  51. ^ a b c King 1998
  52. ^ Glisson, Susan M. (2006). The Human Tradition in the Civil Rights Movement. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 190–193. ISBN 0742544095. 
  53. ^ "Albany GA, Movement". Civil Rights Movement Veterans. http://www.crmvet.org/tim/timhis61.htm#1961albany. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  54. ^ Garrow, (1986) p. 246.
  55. ^ Harrell, David Edwin; Edwin S. Gaustad; Randall M. Miller, John B. Boles; Randall Bennett Woods; Sally Foreman Griffith (2005). Unto a Good Land: A History of the American People, Volume 2. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 1055. ISBN 0802829457. 
  56. ^ Jones, Maxine D.; Kevin M. McCarthy (1993). African Americans in Florida: An Illustrated History. Pineapple Press Inc.. pp. 113–115. ISBN 156164031X. 
  57. ^ Haley, Alex (January 1965). "Martin Luther King". The Playboy Interview (Playboy). http://www.playboy.com/arts-entertainment/features/mlk/index.html. Retrieved 2008-08-27. 
  58. ^ "The Selma Injunction". Civil Rights Movement Veterans. http://www.crmvet.org/tim/timhis64.htm#1964selmainj. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  59. ^ Gates, Henry Louis; Anthony Appiah (1999). Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. Basic Civitas Books. pp. 1251. ISBN 0465000711. 
  60. ^ Cashman, Sean Dennis (1991). African-Americans and the Quest for Civil Rights, 1900-1990. NYU Press. pp. 162. ISBN 0814714412. 
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  192. ^ "History of the Memorial". Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation. http://www.mlkmemorial.org/site/c.hkIUL9MVJxE/b.1190613/k.5EE9/History_of_the_Memorial.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-15. 
  193. ^ "The Theater: A King in Darkness", Time, 1976-10-04, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,918426,00.html, retrieved 2009-01-03 
  194. ^ "National Theatre Company of China Tours Atlanta, Birmingham, and Memphis". The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute. 2007-02-06. http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/China/mlkchina/try2_files/mlkpp_data/Touring_Atlanta_text.htm. Retrieved 2008-08-27.  See also: 2007-06-23, Anthony. NPR: "Martin Luther King's Story Plays on Beijing Stage". National Public Radio. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=11330396 NPR:. Retrieved 2008-06-15. 
  195. ^ "Proclamation 6401 - Martin Luther King, Jr., Federal Holiday, 1992". The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=47329. Retrieved 2008-09-08.  See also: "Martin Luther King Day". U.S. Department of State. http://exchanges.state.gov/education/engteaching/mlkbday.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-15. 
  196. ^ Goldberg, Carey (1999-05-26). "Contrarian New Hampshire To Honor Dr. King, at Last". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A07E0DC1031F935A15756C0A96F958260. Retrieved 2008-06-15. 
  197. ^ a b Warren, Mervyn A. (2001). King Came Preaching: The Pulpit Power of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. InterVarsity Press. pp. 79. ISBN 0830826580. 
  198. ^ "Winner of the 1964 Nobel Prize in Peace". Nobel Prize Committee. http://nobelprize.org/peace/laureates/1964/index.html. Retrieved 2008-06-21.  See also: Engel, Irving M.. "Commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr.: Presentation of American Liberties Medallion". American Jewish Committee. http://www.ajc.org/site/apps/nl/content3.asp?c=ijITI2PHKoG&b=843719&ct=1052921. Retrieved 2008-06-13. 
  199. ^ King, Jr., Martin Luther. "Commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr.: Response to Award of American Liberties Medallion". American Jewish Committee. http://www.ajc.org/site/apps/nl/content3.asp?c=ijITI2PHKoG&b=843719&ct=1052923. Retrieved 2008-06-13. 
  200. ^ "Habitat co-founder to receive Pacem in Terris award tonight". Quad-City Times. 2005-10-23. http://www.qctimes.com/articles/2005/10/23/news/local/doc435b0e9c484dc514864978.txt. Retrieved 2008-08-27. 
  201. ^ "The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. upon accepting The Planned Parenthood Federation Of America Margaret Sanger Award". PPFA. http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/who-we-are/the-reverend-martin-luther-king-jr.htm. Retrieved 2008-08-27. 
  202. ^ Gates, Henry Louis; Anthony Appiah (1999). Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. Basic Civitas Books. pp. 1348. ISBN 0465000711. 
  203. ^ "Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.". The Official Site of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. http://www.medaloffreedom.com/MartinLutherKingJr.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-13. 
  204. ^ "Congressional Gold Medal Recipients (1776 to Present)". Office of the Clerk: U.S. House of Representatives. http://clerk.house.gov/art_history/house_history/goldMedal.html. Retrieved 2008-06-16. 
  205. ^ Gallup, George; Alec Gallup, Jr. (2000). The Gallup Poll: Public Opinion 1999. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 249. ISBN 0842026991. 
  206. ^ "The Person of the Century Poll Results". Time. 2000-01-19. http://www.time.com/time/time100/poc/century.html. Retrieved 2008-08-27. 
  207. ^ "Reagan voted 'greatest American'". BBC. 2005-06-28. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4631421.stm. Retrieved 2008-08-27. 
  208. ^ Alderman, Derek H.. "Naming Streets for Martin Luther King, Jr.: No Easy Road" (PDF). Landscape and Race in the United States. Routledge Press. http://personal.ecu.edu/aldermand/pubs/alderman_chapter.pdf. 
  209. ^ "King County Was Rededicated For Mlk". The Seattle Times. 1998-01-18. http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19980118&slug=2729257. Retrieved 2008-06-13.  See also: "New logo is an image of civil rights leader". King County. http://www.kingcounty.gov/operations/logo.aspx. Retrieved 2008-06-13. 
  210. ^ "Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Competition Winners Announced". City of Harrisburg. 2003-01-19. http://www.harrisburgpa.gov/pressReleases/prArchives/2003/01/20030119_mlkEssay.html. Retrieved 2008-08-27. 
  211. ^ Flagg, Chuck (2006-02-10). "What it Takes to Become a Saint". The Morgan Hill Times. http://www.morganhilltimes.com/lifestyles/178715-what-it-takes-to-become-a-saint. Retrieved 2008-08-27. 
  212. ^ "News & Events — January 2008". St. Thomas Evangelical Lutheran Church. http://www.stlconline.org/archive/200801.html. Retrieved 2008-06-15. 
  213. ^ Asante, Molefi Kete (2002). 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-963-8.
  214. ^ a b Zongker, Brett, (Associated Press), "King family draws fees from DC memorial project", Yahoo News, April 17, 2009.
  215. ^ Shirek, John, "King Center: MLK's Children Not Making Money on Memorial," WXIA-TV, April 22, 2009.
  216. ^ Turley, Jonathan, "Monumental Shakedown: Cashing in on Martin Luther King, Jr.", Los Angeles Times, April 22, 2009.

References

  • Abernathy, Ralph (1989). And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: An Autobiography. Harper & Row. ISBN 0060161922. 
  • Ayton, Mel (2005). A Racial Crime: James Earl Ray And The Murder Of Martin Luther King Jr.. Archebooks Publishing. ISBN 1595070753. 
  • Beito, David; Beito, Linda Royster (2004). "T.R.M. Howard: Pragmatism over Strict Integrationist Ideology in the Mississippi Delta, 1942–1954". in Feldman, Glenn (ed.). Before Brown: Civil Rights and White Backlash in the Modern South. University of Alabama Press. pp. 68–95. ISBN 0817351345. 
  • Branch, Taylor (2006). At Canaan's Edge: America In the King Years, 1965–1968. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 068485712X. 
  • Branch, Taylor (1988). Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954–1963. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671460978. 
  • Branch, Taylor (1998). Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963–1965. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0684808196. 
  • Chernus, Ira (2004). "Chapter 11". American Nonviolence: The History of an Idea. Orbis Books. ISBN 1570755477. 
  • Garrow, David J (1981). The FBI and Martin Luther King, Jr.. Penguin Books. ISBN 0140064869. 
  • Jackson, Thomas F. (2006). From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 9780812239690. 
  • King, Coretta Scott (1993) [1969]. My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr.. Henry Holth & Co. ISBN 080502445X. 
  • Kirk, John A. (2005). Martin Luther King, Jr.. Pearson Longman. ISBN 0582414318. 
  • Lindgren, Carl Edwin. "Resurrection City". Southern Exposure vol.XX (No. 1 Spring 1992): 7. 

Further reading

  • David Garrow, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (1989)
  • Flip Schulke and Penelope McPhee, King Remembered, Foreword by Jesse Jackson (1986)
  • Nick Kotz, Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Laws that Changed America (2005)

External links

Video and audio material

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
International Committee of the Red Cross
and
League of Red Cross Societies
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
1964
Succeeded by
UNICEF


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Martin Luther King, Jr. article)

From Wikiquote

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they cannot communicate; they cannot communicate because they are separated.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929April 4, 1968) was a Baptist minister, civil rights activist, and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize of 1964. He was the husband of Coretta Scott King, and father of Martin Luther King III.

Contents

Sourced

There are often multiple sources for some famous statements by King; as a professional speaker and minister he used some significant phrases with only slight variation many times in his essays, books, and his speeches to different audiences.
There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right.
  • You know my friends, there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled by the iron feet of oppression ... If we are wrong, the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong. If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong. And if we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong. If we are wrong, Jesus of Nazareth was merely a utopian dreamer that never came down to Earth. If we are wrong, justice is a lie, love has no meaning. And we are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.
  • True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.
    • In a 1955 response to an accusation that he was "disturbing the peace" by his activism during the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, as quoted in Let the Trumpet Sound : A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr (1982) by Stephen B. Oates
  • Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated.
    • Stride Toward Freedom : the Montgomery Story (1958)
  • Man is man because he is free to operate within the framework of his destiny. He is free to deliberate, to make decisions, and to choose between alternatives. He is distinguished from animals by his freedom to do evil or to do good and to walk the high road of beauty or tread the low road of ugly degeneracy.
    • The Measures of Man (1959)
  • I submit to you that if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live.
  • [T]here are certain things in our nation and in the world which I am proud to be maladjusted and which I hope all men of good-will will be maladjusted until the good societies realize. I say very honestly that I never intend to become adjusted to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to become adjusted to religious bigotry. I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I never intend to adjust myself to the madness of militarism, to self-defeating effects of physical violence.
  • A riot is the language of the unheard.
    • Address given in Birmingham, Alabama (1963-12-31)
  • The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. ... Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
    • 'Where Do We Go From Here?" as published in Where Do We Go from Here : Chaos or Community? (1967), p. 62; many statements in this book, or slight variants of them, were also part of his address Where Do We Go From Here?" which has a section below. A common variant appearing at least as early as 1968 has "Returning violence for violence multiplies violence..." An early version of the speech as published in A Martin Luther King Treasury (1964), p. 173, has : "Returning hate for hate multiplies hate..."
I say to you that our goal is freedom, and I believe we are going to get there because however much she strays away from it, the goal of America is freedom.
  • Many of the ugly pages of American history have been obscured and forgotten. A society is always eager to cover misdeeds with a cloak of forgetfulness, but no society can fully repress an ugly past when the ravages persist into the present. America owes a debt of justice which it has only begun to pay. If it loses the will to finish or slackens in its determination, history will recall its crimes and the country that would be great will lack the most indispensable element of greatness — justice.
    • Where Do We Go from Here : Chaos or Community? (1967), p. 109
  • On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, "Is it safe?" Expediency asks the question, "Is it politic?" And Vanity comes along and asks the question, "Is it popular?" But Conscience asks the question "Is it right?" And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right. I believe today that there is a need for all people of good will to come together with a massive act of conscience and say in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "We ain't goin' study war no more." This is the challenge facing modern man.
    • "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution" (31 March 1968)
  • I say to you that our goal is freedom, and I believe we are going to get there because however much she strays away from it, the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be as a people, our destiny is tied up in the destiny of America.
    • "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution" (31 March 1968)
  • When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews, You are talking anti-Semitism.
    • The accuracy of this quote is under debate. For an investigation of the various ways the quote has been attributed, see: http://www.counterpunch.org/kiblawi01172004.html
    • Seymour Martin Lipset. "The Socialism of Fools: The Left, the Jews and Israel", Encounter magazine, December, 1969, p. 24.
    • from a 1968 appearance in Cambridge, Massachusetts
    • Note: There is a speech attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr. based on this quote that is a hoax.
  • I am not interested in power for power's sake, but I'm interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good.
    • As quoted in The Civil Sphere (2006) by Jeffrey C. Alexander, p. 388
  • I endorse it. I think it was correct. Contrary to what many have said, it sought to outlaw neither prayer nor belief in god. In a pluralistic society such as ours, who is to determine what prayer shall be spoken and by whom? Legally, constitutionally or otherwise, the state certainly has no such right.
    • King sharing his thoughts on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to ban school prayer, in a 1965 interview with Playboy magazine.
  • If a city has a 30% Negro population, then it is logical to assume that Negroes should have at least 30% of the jobs in any particular company, and jobs in all categories rather than only in menial areas.
    • from a 1968 Playboy magazine interview
  • I met Malcolm X once in Washington, but circumstances didn't enable me to talk with him for more than a minute. He is very articulate ... but I totally disagree with many of his political and philosophical views — at least insofar as I understand where he now stands. I don't want to seem to sound self-righteous, or absolutist, or that I think I have the only truth, the only way. Maybe he does have some of the answer. I don't know how he feels now, but I know that I have often wished that he would talk less of violence, because violence is not going to solve our problem. And in his litany of articulating the despair of the Negro without offering any positive, creative alternative, I feel that Malcolm has done himself and our people a great disservice. Fiery, demagogic oratory in the black ghettos, urging Negroes to arm themselves and prepare to engage in violence, as he has done, can reap nothing but grief.

Strength to Love (1963)

We must combine the toughness of the serpent with the softness of the dove, a tough mind and a tender heart.
  • The strong man holds in a living blend strongly marked opposites. The idealists are usually not realistic, and the realists are not usually idealistic. The militant are not generally known to be passive, nor the passive to be militant. Seldom are the humble self-assertive, or the self-assertive humble. But life at its best is a creative synthesis of opposites in fruitful harmony. The philosopher Hegel said that truth is found neither in the thesis nor the antithesis, but in the emergent synthesis which reconciles the two.
    • Ch. 1 : A tough mind and a tender heart
The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.
  • Jesus recognized the need for blending opposites. He knew that his disciples would face a difficult and hostile world, where they would confront the recalcitrance of political officials and the intransigence of the protectors of the old order. He knew that they would meet cold and arrogant men whose hearts had been hardened by the long winter of traditionalism. ... And he gave them a formula for action, "Be ye therefore as wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." ... We must combine the toughness of the serpent with the softness of the dove, a tough mind and a tender heart.
    • Ch. 1 : A tough mind and a tender heart
  • The tough mind is sharp and penetrating, breaking through the crust of legends and myths and sifting the true from the false. The tough-minded individual is astute and discerning. He has a strong austere quality that makes for firmness of purpose and solidness of commitment.
    Who doubts that this toughness is one of man's greatest needs? Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.
    • Ch. 1 : A tough mind and a tender heart
  • Softmindedness often invades religion. ... Softminded persons have revised the Beautitudes to read "Blessed are the pure in ignorance: for they shall see God." This has led to a widespread belief that there is a conflict between science and religion. But this is not true. There may be a conflict between softminded religionists and toughminded scientists, but not between science and religion. ... Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge which is power; religion gives man wisdom which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals. They are complementary.
    • Ch. 1 : A tough mind and a tender heart
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
  • There is little hope for us until we become toughminded enough to break loose from the shackles of prejudice, half-truths, and downright ignorance. The shape of the world today does not permit us the luxury of softmindedness. A nation or civilization that continues to produce softminded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan.
    But we must not stop with the cultivation of a tough mind. The gospel also demands a tender heart. ... What is more tragic than to see a person who has risen to the disciplined heights of toughmindedness but has at the same time sunk to the passionless depths of hardheartedness?
    • Ch. 1 : A tough mind and a tender heart
  • The greatness of our God lies in the fact that He is both toughminded and tenderhearted.
    • Ch. 1 : A tough mind and a tender heart
  • Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
    • Ch. 4 : Love in action, Sct. 3
  • Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. So when Jesus says "Love your enemies," he is setting forth a profound and ultimately inescapable admonition. ... The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.
    • Ch. 5 : Loving your enemies; this passage contains some phrases King later used in "Where Do We Go From Here?" (1967) which has a section below.
  • Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.
    • Ch. 5 : Loving your enemies
  • The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Letter from a Birmingham Jail (1963)

Response to an open letter by fellow clergyman criticizing his participation in civil rights demonstrations (16 April 1963) Full text online
Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities...
  • Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
  • We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
  • One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.
  • How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts the human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority.
  • An unjust law is a code that a majority inflicts on a minority that is not binding on itself. This is difference made legal. On the other hand a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.
  • In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.
  • Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained.
  • I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends.
  • Never before have I written so long a letter. I'm afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts, and pray long prayers?
  • Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

I Have A Dream (1963)

I have a dream...
Full text online + audio and video links
  • Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free.
    One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.
  • When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.
    This note was a promise that all men, yes black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.
  • This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.
  • The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
  • We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
  • The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
  • I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
We will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
  • Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state, sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.
  • I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
  • This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring." And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
  • When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Nobel Prize acceptance speech (1964)

Full text online
Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.
I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.
  • Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time — the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts… Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.
  • I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.
  • This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born.
  • I think Alfred Nobel would know what I mean when I say that I accept this award in the spirit of a curator of some precious heirloom which he holds in trust for its true owners — all those to whom beauty is truth and truth beauty — and in whose eyes the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.

Speech at Oberlin College (1964)

Speech at Oberlin College (22 October 1964); Quotes from multiple MLK appearances at Oberlin
  • The time is always right to do what’s right.
  • It is true that behavior cannot be legislated, and legislation cannot make you love me, but legislation can restrain you from lynching me, and I think that is kind of important.

Keep Moving From This Mountain (1965)

Sermon at Temple Israel of Hollywood (1965-02-25) - Online text and audio
In every age and every generation, men have envisioned a promised land.
  • I would like to take your minds back many, many centuries into a familiar experience so significantly recorded in the sacred Scriptures. The Children of Israel had been reduced into the bondage of physical slavery... three groups of people emerged. One group said in substance that "We would rather go back to Egypt." They preferred the flush parts of Egypt to the challenges of the Promised Land. A second group that abhorred the idea of going back to Egypt, and yet they abhorred the idea of facing the difficulties of moving ahead to the Promised Land and they somehow wanted to remain stationary and choose the line of least resistance. There was a third group, probably influenced by Caleb and Joshua who had gone over to spy a bit and who admitted that there were giants in the land but who said, "We can possess the land." This group said in substance that "We will go on in spite of...," that "We will not allow anything to stop us," that "We will move on amid the difficulties, amid the trials, amid the tribulations."
  • In every age and every generation, men have envisioned a promised land. Some may have envisioned it with the wrong ideology, with the wrong philosophical presupposition. But men in every generation thought in terms of some promised land.
  • Each of us lives in two realms, the "within" and the "without." The within of our lives is somehow found in the realm of ends, the without in the realm of means. The within of our [lives], the bottom -- that realm of spiritual ends expressed in art, literature, morals, and religion for which at best we live. The without of our lives is that realm of instrumentalities, techniques, mechanisms by which we live. Now the great temptation of life and the great tragedy of life is that so often we allow the without of our lives to absorb the within of our lives. The great tragedy of life is that too often we allow the means by which we live to outdistance the ends for which we live.
  • We must move on to that mountain which says in substance, "What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world of means -- airplanes, televisions, electric lights -- and lose the end: the soul?"
  • Racial segregation must be seen for what it is -- and that is an evil system, a new form of slavery covered up with certain niceties of complexity.
  • We’ve been in the mountain of war. We’ve been in the mountain of violence. We’ve been in the mountain of hatred long enough. It is necessary to move on now, but only by moving out of this mountain can we move to the promised land of justice and brotherhood and the Kingdom of God. It all boils down to the fact that we must never allow ourselves to become satisfied with unattained goals. We must always maintain a kind of divine discontent.

Beyond Vietnam (1967)

Speech at Riverside Church in New York City (1967-04-04) - Online text and audio
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.
  • As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.
  • This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love.
  • I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
  • Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don't mix, they say. Aren't you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.
  • Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.
  • A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
  • This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality.
  • We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.

Speech on Vietnam (1967)

Speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia (1967-04-30)
The truth must be told.
  • There is something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that would praise you when you say, "Be nonviolent toward Jim Clark," but will curse and damn you when you say, "Be nonviolent toward little brown Vietnamese children." There is something wrong with that press.
  • And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak not now of the soldiers of each side, not of military government in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them too because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution until some attempt is made to know these people and hear their broken cries. Now let me tell you the truth about it. They must see Americans as strange liberators. Do you realize that the Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945, after a combined French and Japanese occupation. And incidentally, this was before the communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. And this is a little known fact, these people declared themselves independent in 1945, they quoted our Declaration of Independence in their document of freedom. And yet our government refused to recognize, President Truman said they were not ready for independence. So we failed victim as a nation at that time of the same deadly arrogance that has poisoned the international situation for all of these years. France then set out to reconquer its former colony. And they fought eight long, hard, brutal years, trying to reconquer Vietnam. You know who helped France? It was the United States of America, it came to the point that we were meeting more than 80% of the war cost. And even when France started despairing of its reckless action, we did not. And in 1954, a conference was called at Geneva, and an agreement was reached, because France had been defeated at Dien Bien Phu. But even after that and even after the Geneva Accord, we did not stop. We must face the sad fact that our government sought in a real sense to sabotage the Geneva Accord. Well, after the French were defeated, it looked as if independence and land reform would come through the Geneva agreement. But instead the United States came and started supporting a man named Diem, who turned out to be one of the most ruthless dictators in the history of the world. He set out to silence all opposition, people were brutally murdered merely because they raised their voices against the brutal policies of Diem. And the peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly rooted out all opposition. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by United States influence, and then by increasing numbers of United States troops, who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem's methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictatorships seemed to offer no real change, especially in terms of their need for land and peace. And who are we supporting in Vietnam today? It's a man by the name of General Ky, who fought with the French against his own people, and who said on one occasion that the greatest hero of his life is Hitler. This is who we're supporting in Vietnam today. Oh, our government, and the press generally, won't tell us these things, but God told me to tell you this morning. The truth must be told.

Where Do We Go From Here? (1967)

Address to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (1967-08-16)
We must massively assert our dignity and worth. We must stand up amidst a system that still oppresses us and develop an unassailable and majestic sense of values.
  • Now, in order to answer the question, "Where do we go from here?" which is our theme, we must first honestly recognize where we are now. When the Constitution was written, a strange formula to determine taxes and representation declared that the Negro was sixty percent of a person. Today another curious formula seems to declare that he is fifty percent of a person. Of the good things in life, the Negro has approximately one half those of whites. of the bad things of life, he has twice those of whites. Thus half of all Negroes live in substandard housing. And Negroes have half the income of whites. When we view the negative experiences of life, the Negro has a double share. There are twice as many unemployed. The rate of infant mortality among Negroes is double that of whites and there are twice as many Negroes dying in Vietnam as whites in proportion to their size in the population.
  • This is where we are. Where do we go from here? First, we must massively assert our dignity and worth. We must stand up amidst a system that still oppresses us and develop an unassailable and majestic sense of values.
  • As long as the mind is enslaved, the body can never be free. Psychological freedom, a firm sense of self-esteem, is the most powerful weapon against the long night of physical slavery. No Lincolnian emancipation proclamation or Johnsonian civil rights bill can totally bring this kind of freedom. The negro will only be free when he reaches down to the inner depths of his own being and signs with the pen and ink of assertive manhood his own emancipation proclamation. And, with a spirit straining toward true self-esteem, the Negro must boldly throw off the manacles of self-abegnation and say to himself and to the world, "I am somebody. I am a person. I am a man with dignity and honor. I have a rich and noble history.
  • We must stand up and say, "I'm black and I'm beautiful," and this self-affirmation is the black man's need, made compelling by the white man's crimes against him.
There is nothing wrong with power if power is used correctly.
  • Don't let anybody make you think God chose America as his divine messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with justice and it seems I can hear God saying to America "you are too arrogant, and if you don't change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I will place it in the hands of a nation that doesn't even know my name. Be still and know that I'm God. Men will beat their swords into plowshafts and their spears into pruning hooks, and nations shall not rise up against nations, neither shall they study war anymore." I don't know about you, I ain't going to study war anymore.
Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.
  • Power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, political and economic change. ... Now a lot of us are preachers, and all of us have our moral convictions and concerns, and so often have problems with power. There is nothing wrong with power if power is used correctly. You see, what happened is that some of our philosophers got off base. And one of the great problems of history is that the concepts of love and power have usually been contrasted as opposites — polar opposites — so that love is identified with a resignation of power, and power with a denial of love.
    It was this misinterpretation that caused Nietzsche, who was a philosopher of the will to power, to reject the Christian concept of love. It was this same misinterpretation which induced Christian theologians to reject the Nietzschean philosophy of the will to power in the name of the Christian idea of love. Now, we've got to get this thing right. What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love. And this is what we must see as we move on. What has happened is that we have had it wrong and confused in our own country, and this has led Negro Americans in the past to seek their goals through power devoid of love and conscience.
    This is leading a few extremists today to advocate for Negroes the same destructive and conscienceless power that they have justly abhorred in whites. It is precisely this collision of immoral power with powerless morality which constitutes the major crisis of our times.
  • Today the poor are less often dismissed, I hope, from our consciences by being branded as inferior or incompetent. We also know that no matter how dynamically the economy develops and expands, it does not eliminate all poverty.
    The problem indicates that our emphasis must be twofold. We must create full employment or we must create incomes. People must be made consumers by one method or the other. Once they are placed in this position we need to be concerned that the potential of the individual is not wasted. New forms of work that enhance the social good will have to be devised for those for whom traditional jobs are not available.
  • A host of positive psychological changes inevitably will result from widespread economic security. The dignity of the individual will flourish when the decisions concerning his life are in his own hands, when he has the means to seek self-improvement. Personal conflicts among husbands, wives and children will diminish when the unjust measurement of human worth on the scale of dollars is eliminated.
  • We must reaffirm our commitment to nonviolence. I want to stress this. The futility of violence in the struggle for racial justice has been tragically etched in all the recent Negro riots. Yesterday, I tried to analyze the riots and deal with their causes. Today I want to give the other side. There is certainly something painfully sad about a riot. One sees screaming youngsters and angry adults fighting hopelessly and aimlessly against impossible odds. And deep down within them, you can see a desire for self-destruction, a kind of suicidal longing.
    Occasionally Negroes contend that the 1965 Watts riot and the other riots in various cities represented effective civil rights action. But those who express this view always end up with stumbling words when asked what concrete gains have been won as a result.
Darkness cannot put out darkness. Only light can do that.
  • Nowhere have the riots won any concrete improvement such as have the organized protest demonstrations. When one tries to pin down advocates of violence as to what acts would be effective, the answers are blatantly illogical. Sometimes they talk of overthrowing racist state and local governments and they talk about guerrilla warfare. They fail to see that no internal revolution has ever succeeded in overthrowing a government by violence unless the government had already lost the allegiance and effective control of its armed forces. Anyone in his right mind knows that this will not happen in the United States.
  • It is perfectly clear that a violent revolution on the part of American blacks would find no sympathy and support from the white population and very little from the majority of Negroes themselves. This is no time for romantic illusions and empty philosophical debates about freedom. This is a time for action. What is needed is a strategy for change, a tactical program that will bring the Negro into the mainstream of American life as quickly as possible. So far, this has only been offered by the nonviolent movement. Without recognizing this we will end up with solutions that don't solve, answers that don't answer and explanations that don't explain.
  • I say to you today that I still stand by nonviolence. And I am still convinced that it is the most potent weapon available to the Negro in his struggle for justice in this country. And the other thing is that I am concerned about a better world. I'm concerned about justice. I'm concerned about brotherhood. I'm concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about these, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer but you can't murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar but you can't establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can't murder hate. Darkness cannot put out darkness. Only light can do that.
I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind's problems. And I'm going to talk about it everywhere I go.
  • I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind's problems. And I'm going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn't popular to talk about it in some circles today. I'm not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love, I'm talking about a strong, demanding love. And I have seen too much hate. I've seen too much hate on the faces of sheriffs in the South. I've seen hate on the faces of too many Klansmen and too many White Citizens Councilors in the South to want to hate myself, because every time I see it, I know that it does something to their faces and their personalities and I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love. If you are seeking the highest good, I think you can find it through love. And the beautiful thing is that we are moving against wrong when we do it, because John was right, God is love. He who hates does not know God, but he who has love has the key that unlocks the door to the meaning of ultimate reality.
  • Communism forgets that life is individual. Capitalism forgets that life is social, and the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism but in a higher synthesis. It is found in a higher synthesis that combines the truths of both. Now, when I say question the whole society, it means ultimately coming to see that the problem of racism, the problem of exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated.
Let us be dissatisfied until from every city hall, justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
  • Let us be dissatisfied until from every city hall, justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. Let us be dissatisfied until that day when the lion and the lamb shall lie down together, and every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid. Let us be dissatisfied. And men will recognize that out of one blood God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth. Let us be dissatisfied until that day when nobody will shout "White Power!" — when nobody will shout "Black Power!" — but everybody will talk about God's power and human power.
Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.
  • I must confess, my friends, the road ahead will not always be smooth. There will be still rocky places of frustration and meandering points of bewilderment. There will be inevitable setbacks here and there. There will be those moments when the buoyancy of hope will be transformed into the fatigue of despair. Our dreams will sometimes be shattered and our ethereal hopes blasted. We may again with tear-drenched eyes have to stand before the bier of some courageous civil rights worker whose life will be snuffed out by the dastardly acts of bloodthirsty mobs. Difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future. ... When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.
  • In the final analysis the weakness of Black Power is its failure to see that the black man needs the white man and the white man needs the black man. However much we may try to romanticize the slogan, there is no separate black path to power and fulfillment that does not intersect white paths, and there is no separate white path to power and fulfillment, short of social disaster, that does not share that power with black aspirations for freedom and human dignity We are bound together in a single garment of destiny.

The Drum Major Instinct (1968)

Sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta (1968-02-04)
  • I know a man — and I just want to talk about him a minute, and maybe you will discover who I'm talking about as I go down the way because he was a great one. And he just went about serving. He was born in an obscure village, the child of a poor peasant woman. And then he grew up in still another obscure village, where he worked as a carpenter until he was thirty years old. Then for three years, he just got on his feet, and he was an itinerant preacher. And he went about doing some things. He didn't have much. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never owned a house. He never went to college. He never visited a big city. He never went two hundred miles from where he was born. He did none of the usual things that the world would associate with greatness. He had no credentials but himself.
  • He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. They called him a rabble-rouser. They called him a troublemaker. They said he was an agitator. He practiced civil disobedience; he broke injunctions. And so he was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. And the irony of it all is that his friends turned him over to them. One of his closest friends denied him. Another of his friends turned him over to his enemies. And while he was dying, the people who killed him gambled for his clothing, the only possession that he had in the world. When he was dead he was buried in a borrowed tomb, through the pity of a friend.
  • Nineteen centuries have come and gone and today he stands as the most influential figure that ever entered human history. All of the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned put together have not affected the life of man on this earth (Amen) as much as that one solitary life. His name may be a familiar one. But today I can hear them talking about him. Every now and then somebody says, "He's King of Kings." And again I can hear somebody saying, "He's Lord of Lords." Somewhere else I can hear somebody saying, "In Christ there is no East nor West." And then they go on and talk about, "In Him there's no North and South, but one great Fellowship of Love throughout the whole wide world." He didn't have anything. He just went around serving and doing good.
  • This morning, you can be on his right hand and his left hand if you serve. It's the only way in.
  • Every now and then I guess we all think realistically about that day when we will be victimized with what is life's final common denominator — that something we call death. We all think about it. And every now and then I think about my own death, and I think about my own funeral. And I don't think of it in a morbid sense. Every now and then I ask myself, "What is it that I would want said?" And I leave the word to you this morning.
    If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don't want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. Every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize, that isn't important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards, that's not important. Tell him not to mention where I went to school.
    I'd like somebody to mention that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. I'd like for somebody to say that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody. I want you to say that day, that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say, on that day, that I did try, in my life, to visit those who were in prison. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.
    Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that's all I want to say.
  • We all have the drum major instinct. We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade. ... And the great issue of life is to harness the drum major instinct. It is a good instinct if you don't distort it and pervert it. Don't give it up. Keep feeling the need for being important. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be the first in love. I want you to be the first in moral excellence. I want you to be the first in generosity.

I've Been to the Mountaintop (1968)

Speech in Memphis, Tennessee (1968-04-03)
Only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars.
  • I'm delighted to see each of you here tonight in spite of a storm warning. You reveal that you are determined to go on anyhow. Something is happening in Memphis, something is happening in our world.
  • As you know, if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of general and panoramic view of the whole human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, "Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?" — I would take my mental flight by Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn't stop there. I would move on by Greece, and take my mind to Mount Olympus. And I would see Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around the Parthenon as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality.
    But I wouldn't stop there. I would go on, even to the great heyday of the Roman Empire. And I would see developments around there, through various emperors and leaders. But I wouldn't stop there. I would even come up to the day of the Renaissance, and get a quick picture of all that the Renaissance did for the cultural and esthetic life of man. But I wouldn't stop there. I would even go by the way that the man for whom I'm named had his habitat. And I would watch Martin Luther as he tacked his ninety-five theses on the door at the church in Wittenberg.
    But I wouldn't stop there. I would come on up even to 1863, and watch a vacillating president by the name of Abraham Lincoln finally come to the conclusion that he had to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. But I wouldn't stop there. I would even come up the early thirties, and see a man grappling with the problems of the bankruptcy of his nation. And come with an eloquent cry that we have nothing to fear but fear itself.
    But I wouldn't stop there. Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty, and say, "If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the twentieth century, I will be happy." Now that's a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion all around. That's a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a way that men, in some strange way, are responding — something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya: Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee — the cry is always the same — "We want to be free."
It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it's nonviolence or nonexistence.
  • Another reason that I'm happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we're going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demands didn't force them to do it. Survival demands that we grapple with them. Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it's nonviolence or nonexistence.
  • We aren't engaged in any negative protest and in any negative arguments with anybody. We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people. We are saying that we are God's children. And that we don't have to live like we are forced to live.
  • We've got to stay together and maintain unity. You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the slaves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh's court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together, that's the beginning of getting out of slavery. Now let us maintain unity.
  • When people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory.
  • We aren't going to let any mace stop us. We are masters in our nonviolent movement in disarming police forces; they don't know what to do.
  • All we say to America is, "Be true to what you said on paper." If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn't committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of the press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right. And so just as I say, we aren't going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on.
  • It's all right to talk about "long white robes over yonder," in all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here. It's all right to talk about "streets flowing with milk and honey," but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can't eat three square meals a day. It's all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God's preacher must talk about the New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee. This is what we have to do.
  • Now, we are poor people, individually, we are poor when you compare us with white society in America. We are poor. Never stop and forget that collectively, that means all of us together, collectively we are richer than all the nations in the world, with the exception of nine. Did you ever think about that? After you leave the United States, Soviet Russia, Great Britain, West Germany, France, and I could name the others, the Negro collectively is richer than most nations of the world. We have an annual income of more than thirty billion dollars a year, which is more than all of the exports of the United States, and more than the national budget of Canada. Did you know that? That's power right there, if we know how to pool it.
    We don't have to argue with anybody. We don't have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don't need any bricks and bottles, we don't need any Molotov cocktails, we just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say, "God sent us by here, to say to you that you're not treating his children right. And we've come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda — fair treatment, where God's children are concerned. Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you."
Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness.
  • Be concerned about your brother. You may not be on strike. But either we go up together, or we go down together.
  • Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness. One day a man came to Jesus; and he wanted to raise some questions about some vital matters in life. At points, he wanted to trick Jesus, and show him that he knew a little more than Jesus knew, and through this, throw him off base. Now that question could have easily ended up in a philosophical and theological debate. But Jesus immediately pulled that question from mid-air, and placed it on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho. And he talked about a certain man, who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side. They didn't stop to help him. And finally a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But with him, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, because he had the capacity to project the "I" into the "thou," and to be concerned about his brother.
  • I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, "I can see why Jesus used this as a setting for his parable." It's a winding, meandering road. It's really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about 1200 miles, or rather 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you're about 2200 feet below sea level. That's a dangerous road. In the day of Jesus it came to be known as the "Bloody Pass." And you know, it's possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it's possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?".
  • Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation. And I want to thank God, once more, for allowing me to be here with you.
  • You know, several years ago, I was in New York City autographing the first book that I had written. And while sitting there autographing books, a demented black woman came up. The only question I heard from her was, "Are you Martin Luther King?"
    And I was looking down writing, and I said yes. And the next minute I felt something beating on my chest. Before I knew it I had been stabbed by this demented woman. I was rushed to Harlem Hospital. It was a dark Saturday afternoon. And that blade had gone through, and the X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery. And once that's punctured, you drown in your own blood — that's the end of you.
    It came out in the New York Times the next morning, that if I had sneezed, I would have died. Well, about four days later, they allowed me, after the operation, after my chest had been opened, and the blade had been taken out, to move around in the wheel chair in the hospital. They allowed me to read some of the mail that came in, and from all over the states, and the world, kind letters came in. I read a few, but one of them I will never forget. I had received one from the President and the Vice-President. I've forgotten what those telegrams said. I'd received a visit and a letter from the Governor of New York, but I've forgotten what the letter said. But there was another letter that came from a little girl, a young girl who was a student at the White Plains High School. And I looked at that letter, and I'll never forget it. It said simply, "Dear Dr. King: I am a ninth-grade student at the Whites Plains High School." She said, "While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I am a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I'm simply writing you to say that I'm so happy that you didn't sneeze."
    And I want to say tonight, I want to say that I am happy that I didn't sneeze.
I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land.
  • If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been around in 1962, when Negroes in Albany, Georgia, decided to straighten their backs up. And whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can't ride your back unless it is bent. If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill. If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had. If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been down in Selma, Alabama, to see the great movement there. If I had sneezed, I wouldn't have been in Memphis to see a community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering. I'm so happy that I didn't sneeze.
  • Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like any man, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

Misattributions

The Civil Rights Monument in Montgomery, Alabama attributes this Bible verse to Dr. King.
  • ...Until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
    • King indeed said, "Let us be dissatisfied until from every city hall, justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." Although the quotation is frequently attributed to King, he was restating the words of the prophet Amos, recorded in the Bible, Amos 5:24: "But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream" (KJV), or "But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream" (NRSV). People were familiar with the Old Testament prophets during the Civil Rights Movement and understood that this was a Biblical reference not original to Dr. King.
  • Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.
  • Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.
  • The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.

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