Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Riverside Church, April 4, 1967 delivering his speech against the Vietnam War
Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke out against war during an address at Riverside Church in New York, April 4, 1967. Exactly one year later, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would breathe his last breath. Some say he should not have gotten himself involved in the Vietnam War. However, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed that it was his abounding moral duty to lift his voice up for peace. He made his position clear and the distance between him and President Lyndon B. Johnson began to widen.
In the following passage below, Dr. King opined that if America is to be, her dark brothers and sisters must be free:
“For those who ask the question, ‘Aren’t you a civil rights leader?’ and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957, when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: “To save the soul of America.” We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself until the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:”
Langston Hughes Pondering the conundrum of being Negro and American
O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath? America will be!
During the month of February let us recall the words beyond the dream. You know, Jesus gave that wonderful sermon on the Mount of Olive, then came down from that mountain and put the beatitudes into the practical reality of everyday living. Our churches don’t tend to talk about that Jesus too much.
So too did Martin Luther King, Jr., walk a revolutionary path from the Lincoln Memorial to the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Our history don’t tend to talk about that Martin Luther King too much, either.
If we are serious about eliminating war, poverty and racism, then we must seriously consider how the Master lived beyond the Mount of Olive and pay close attention to the themes of King beyond the Lincoln Memorial.
Excerpts from Beyond Vietnam, by Martin Luther King, Jr., Riverside Church, 1967
Harold Michael Harvey is a Past President of The Gate City Bar Association and is the recipient of the Association’s R. E. Thomas Civil Rights Award. He is the author of Paper Puzzle and Justice in the Round: Essays on the American Jury System, and a two-time winner of Allvoices’ Political Pundit Prize. His work has appeared in Facing South, The Atlanta Business Journal, The Southern Christian Leadership Conference Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine, Black Colleges Nines, and Medium.
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