Socialist Night School: MLK In His Own Words
January 19, 2021
In the decades since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination at sanitation workers strike in Memphis, his legacy has been appropriated by just about every political movement out there. From Fox News pundits claiming he would oppose tax increases on the rich because he was “for freedom,” to the more typical whitewashing of his radical politics for a broad audience, anyone and everyone claim the sainted image2 of the good Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as their own.
But in his own time, MLK was viewed as the radical that he was. By cleaving toward an uncompromising politics of racial justice, economic transformation, and peace abroad, MLK won the ire of nearly ¾ of Americans who said they disapproved of him in a 1967 Harris Poll. Today, on our national holiday celebrating his legacy, we invite you to read and listen to his own prophetic words as he wrote and spoke them in his time.
Priority Reading & Viewing:
- Excerpt from the Address at the Conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery March
- Summary: Dr. King cites the roots of Jim Crow in a political strategy by southern planters to break the multi-racial alliance of tenant farmers that arose with the Populist Movement.
- Excerpt from “Where Do We Go From Here?," Address Delivered at the Eleventh Annual SCLC Convention
- Summary: Dr. King confronts the difficult challenges facing the Civil Rights movement after the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. He argues the task in front of them was to build a multi-racial movement for a complete economic transformation of society that guaranteed the equality of black people and the well being of all.
- VIDEO: MLK Talks 'New Phase' Of Civil Rights Struggle, 11 Months Before His Assassination | NBC News
- Summary: In this stunning interview with NBC News, MLK discusses the challenges facing the Civil Rights movement in 1967. He calls for a focus on transforming the ghettos of the North, which were not addressed by ending Jim Crow. He also denounces the Vietnam War for killing millions of innocents and diverting money and attention away from the War on Poverty.
Additional Reading & Viewing:
- Book: Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community? Chapter 2 - Black Power
- Summary: MLK tells the story of the first time Black Power was used as a slogan in the Civil Rights movement. MLK argues that Black Power and the view that black people can “go it alone,” is understandable given white backlash to Civil Rights, but is ultimately giving in to hopelessness. He argues that despite the white backlash, the only path forward for poor black people is to build coalitions with poor whites.
- Full Speech & Audio: The Address at the Conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery March
- Full Speech & Audio: “Where Do We Go From Here?," Address Delivered at the Eleventh Annual SCLC Convention
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