Dr. King On Economic Boycotts

Martin Luther King, Jr., Photo Credits Patheos.com
Martin Luther King, Jr., Photo Credits Patheos.com

During his last sermon, April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke on economic boycotts. He believed that economic boycotts could be used to gain civil and political rights.

Dr. King, was a pragmatist. He realized that to bring about change in America it would require programmatic solutions.He knew the real power of the civil rights movement centered around the power of economic boycotts.

In what history records, as the “I See the Promise Land” speech, Dr. King put forth his future plan to call for economic boycotts against the major corporations in America:

“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 are not treating his children right. And we have come by here 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 have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you.'”

This was Dr. King’s plan for economic boycotts in America. He called out three corporations that night. The Coca-Cola Company, Sealtest Milk Company, and Wonder Bread. At that time, all three had a poor record with respect to employing black workers. He did not get the opportunity to execute his plan of economic boycotts.

A couple of King’s disciples used this method to bring more black faces into corporate America. This strategy worked.

So why was it mothballed and tucked away in the dustbin of history?

I pose this question because of the huge economic support that the African American community is pouring into the financial coiffeurs of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Television Network. This financial aid comes as a result of viewing the television program “Empire.”  This show currently has the highest rating of any of its kind on television.

Cast of Empire, Photo Credits blackfilm.com
Cast of Empire, Photo Credits blackfilm.com

Black viewership of Empire presents an interesting dichotomy. On one hand, Black viewers decry the depiction of issues important to the African American community by Fox News. Especially, its treatment of President Barack Obama. While on the other hand, they can not wait for Murdoch to air the next episode of Empire.

In no way am I suggesting that Empire does not have any serious artistic merits. It has a strong cast. It seems fool hearted to me, to pour millions of dollars into a media empire, which takes a deem editorial view to every issue important to the African American community.

As Dr. King said his last night on earth, ” Always anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal.”

Somewhere, on our journey, we have forgotten these sage words of our last great leader.


Excerpts from “I See the Promise Land,” Martin Luther King, Jr., Masonic Temple, Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968


Harold Michael Harvey, JD, is the author of the legal thriller “Paper Puzzle,” available at Amazon and at haroldmichaelharvey.com. He can be contacted at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com


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Published by Michael

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.