Martin Luther King
A SAC Page
Table of Contents (King text at top, secondary sources
after "\\") =
1967ap04:NYC Riverside Church| Martin Luther King speech,
"Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence"
*2006ja14:Paul Street, "Martin Luther King, Jr., Democratic Socialist"
*2001ja14:Robert Jensen, Best We Get Comfortable with King the
*1998fe:Samuel Francis, "The King Holiday and Its Meaning"
*1994ja15:Kevin Strom, "The Beast as Saint:
The Truth About "Martin Luther King, Jr."
[SAC editor has indicated ellipses, introduced boldface to
emphasize passages of particular relevance to our course, and made occasional
hypertext link with explanatory or supplemental locations]
Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence
Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967,
meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City
I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience
leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in
deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought
us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement
of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found
myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A time comes when
silence is betrayal." That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.
The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us
is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men
do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy,
especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great
difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom
and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as
perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always
on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.
Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found
that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We
must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision,
but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first
time in our nation's history that a significant number of its religious
leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the
high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the
reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us
trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to
its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that
seems so close around us.
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.
In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance
to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path
from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church -- the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where
I began my pastorate -- leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.
I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved
nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation
Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia.
Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the
need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an
attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of
virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of
the problem. While they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of
the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony
to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take
on both sides.
Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the NLF, but rather to my
fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a
conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.
The Importance of Vietnam
Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have
seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision.
There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the
war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A
few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if
there was a real promise of hope for the poor -- both black and white --
through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings.
Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and
eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad
on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or
energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam
continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive
suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of
the poor and to attack it as such.
Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear
to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor
at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to
fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of
the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by
our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties
in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East
Harlem. So 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 together in the same schools. So we watch
them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize
that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent
in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.
My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out
of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years --
especially the last three summers. 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. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for
the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be
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 unless 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:
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!
Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the
integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's
soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can
never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over.
So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led
down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.
As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were
not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I
cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission -- a
commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for "the brotherhood
of man." This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even
if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my
commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this
ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those
who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not
know that the good news was meant for all men -- for Communist and capitalist,
for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and
conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one
who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to
the "Vietcong" or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can
I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?
Finally, as I try to delineate for you and for myself the road that leads from
Montgomery to this place I would have offered all that was most valid if I
simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the
calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or
creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that
the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and
outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them.
This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem
ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than
nationalism and which go beyond our nation's self-defined goals and positions.
We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our
nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make
these humans any less our brothers.
And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to
understand and respond to compassion my mind goes constantly to the people of
that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the junta
in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living 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 there until some attempt
is made to know them and hear their broken cries.
They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people
proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese
occupation, and before the Communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho
Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in
their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we
decided to support France in its reconquest of her former colony.
Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not "ready" for
independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that
has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic
decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination,
and a government that had been established not by China (for whom the
Vietnamese have no great love) but by clearly indigenous forces that included
some Communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform,
one of the most important needs in their lives.
For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of
independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their
abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam.
Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war
costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to
despair of the reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our
huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had
lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic
attempt at recolonization.
After the French were defeated it looked as if independence and land reform
would come again through the Geneva agreements. But instead there came the
United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided
nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious
modern dictators -- our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and
cringed as Diem ruthlessly routed out all opposition, supported their
extortionist landlords and refused even to discuss reunification with the
north. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by U.S. influence
and then by increasing numbers of U.S. 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.
The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in
support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without
popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received
regular promises of peace and democracy -- and land reform. Now they languish
under our bombs and consider us -- not their fellow Vietnamese --the real
enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their
fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met.
They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go -- primarily
women and children and the aged.
They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their
crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to
destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least
twenty casualties from American firepower for one "Vietcong"-inflicted injury.
So far we may have killed a million of them -- mostly children. They wander
into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes,
running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children, degraded
by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their
sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.
What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we
refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do
they think as we test our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested
out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where
are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among
these voiceless ones?
We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the
village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in
the crushing of the nation's only non-Communist revolutionary political force
-- the unified Buddhist church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants
of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men.
Now there is little left to build on -- save bitterness. Soon the only solid
physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the
concrete of the concentration camps we call fortified hamlets. The peasants
may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these?
Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the
questions they cannot raise. These too are our brothers.
Perhaps the more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those
who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation Front
-- that strangely anonymous group we call VC or Communists? What must they
think of us in America when they realize that we permitted the repression and
cruelty of Diem which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in
the south? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their
own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak
of "aggression from the north" as if there were nothing more essential to the
war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the
murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new
weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings even
if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we
supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own
computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.
How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less
than twenty-five percent Communist and yet insist on giving them the blanket
name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their
control of major sections of Vietnam and yet we appear ready to allow national
elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will
have no part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon
press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely
right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them
-- the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political
goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be
excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning
to build on political myth again and then shore it up with the power of new
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.
So, too, with Hanoi. In the north, where our bombs now pummel the land, and
our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable
mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western
words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are
the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the
French, the men who sought membership in the French commonwealth and were
betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies.
It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous
costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the
thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After
1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which would have
surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized
they had been betrayed again.
When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be
remembered. Also it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the
presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the
initial military breach of the Geneva agreements concerning foreign troops,
and they remind us that they did not begin to send in any large number of
supplies or men until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.
Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier
North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none
existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America
has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard of
the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the
north. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of
traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of
irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world
speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor weak nation
more than eight thousand miles away from its shores.
At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few
minutes to give a voice to the voiceless on Vietnam and to understand the
arguments of those who are called enemy, I am as deeply concerned about our
troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting
them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any
war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism
to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that
none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before
long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among
Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side
of the wealthy and the secure while we create hell for the poor.
This Madness Must Cease
Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God
and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is
being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being
subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of
smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a
citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have
taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great
initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.
This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of
them wrote these words:
"Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese
and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing
even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the
Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military
victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep
psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be
the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and
If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world
that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. It will become clear that our
minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony and men will not
refrain from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad China into a war so
that we may bomb her nuclear installations. If we do not stop our war against
the people of Vietnam immediately the world will be left with no other
alternative than to see this as some horribly clumsy and deadly game we have
decided to play.
The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to
achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning
of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the
Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn
sharply from our present ways.
In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the
initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war. I would like to suggest five
concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long
and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:
End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.
Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the
atmosphere for negotiation.
Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by
curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.
Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has
substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any
meaningful negotiations and in any future Vietnam government.
Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance
with the 1954 Geneva agreement.
Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant
asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which
included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for
the damage we have done. We most provide the medical aid that is badly needed,
making it available in this country if necessary.
Protesting The War
Meanwhile we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we
urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must
continue to raise our voices if our nation persists in its perverse ways in
Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every
creative means of protest possible.
As we counsel young men concerning military service we must clarify for them
our nation's role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of
conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is the path now being
chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College,
and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a
dishonorable and unjust one. Moreover I would encourage all ministers of draft
age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious
objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at
the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to
survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the
protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.
There is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us
all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war
in Vietnam. I say we must enter the struggle, but I wish to go on now to say
something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far
deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering
reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned
committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and
Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be
concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and
a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a
significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts
take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.
In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that
our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten
years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the
presence of U.S. military "advisors" in Venezuela. This need to maintain
social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary
action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are
being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green
beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such
activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt
us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible
will make violent revolution inevitable."
Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken
-- the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to
give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of
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.
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and
justice of many of our past and present policies. n 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 is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to
see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. 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." It
will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say:
"This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to
teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of
values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling
differences is not just." 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 people normally humane, of sending men home from
dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically
deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that
continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on
programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the
way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death
wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of
peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep
us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have
fashioned it into a brotherhood.
This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against
communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use
of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and
through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its
participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise
restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a Communist or an
appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the United Nations and who
recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of
these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but
rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense
against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must
with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity
and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows
The People Are Important
These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against
old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail
world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and
barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. "The people who sat
in darkness have seen a great light." We in the West must support these
revolutions. It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid
fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western
nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world
have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel
that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a
judgement against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the
revolutions we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture
the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring
eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful
commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and
thereby speed the day when "every valley shall be exalted, and every moutain
and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the
rough places plain."
A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties
must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an
overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in
their individual societies.
This call for a world-wide 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 men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted
concept -- so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches
[ID] 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 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. This
Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is
beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:
Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of
God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If
we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. 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. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals
that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says : "Love
is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good
against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our
inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word."
We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with
the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history
there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of
time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost
opportunity. The "tide in the affairs of men" does not remain at the flood; it
ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is
deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue
of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too late." There is
an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our
neglect. "The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on..." We still have
a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.
We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for
peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world -- a world that
borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the
long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power
without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.
Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter --
but beautiful -- struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of
God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are
too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be
that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men,
and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing,
of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause,
whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise
we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.
As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:
Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God's new Messiah,
Off'ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and that light.
Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet 'tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong:
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above his own.
*2006ja14:Paul Street, "Martin Luther King, Jr., Democratic Socialist"
EXCERPTS FROM FULL TEXT found at
Paul Street (email@example.com) is currently teaching a course on the history of
the civil rights movement at Northern Illinois University and is the author of
Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (www.paradigmpublishers,
2004) and Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights
Era (New York, NY: Routledge, 2005).
The article seeks to portray Martin Luther King, especially as he
evolved in the "Sixties", as a dissenter against fundamental aspects of the US
political economy. You might want to note how two "right-wing" commentators,
Samuel Francis and
Kevin Strom, seem to agree with Street's views on MLK's broad implications.
Street here (and Jensen below [TXT]) like these
implications, Francis [TXT] and Strom [TXT]
In Street's view, MLK was not just a spokesperson for one
particularly oppressed section of the US population, he was a "founding brother"
of a revived wide-gauged national social-economic advocacy. Such advocacy
disappeared in US life after the "Progressive Era"
[ID]. The memory of MLK must include
his effort to promote progressive economic and international causes in a time of
wide national dissent, the so-called "Sixties". Street dislikes the way the USA
has been asked to commemorate MLK simply as dreamer and moderate activist in a
narrowly defined civil rights movement. MLK was a bold and brave public figure
in the best historical tradition of American dissent.
Here are the excerpts from Street's article =
How many Americans know about the King who linked racial and social inequality
at home to (American [US]) imperialism and social disparity abroad, denouncing what
he called "the triple evils that are interrelated": "racism, economic
exploitation, and war"? "A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244
years," King told the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) in 1967,
"will 'thingify' them --- make them things. Therefore they will exploit them,
and poor people generally, economically. And a nation that will exploit
economically will have to have foreign investments and everything else, and
will have to use its military might to protect them. All of these problems are
tied together" [SAC].
How many Americans have been encouraged to know the King who responded to
America's massive assault on Southeast Asia during the 1960s by pronouncing the
U.S. government "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today"
[TXT], adding [...] that America had no business "fighting
for the so-called freedom of the Vietnamese people when we have not put even
our own [freedom] house in order?" [SAC]
[...] King proclaimed that "God didn't call American to do what she's doing in
the world now. God didn't call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war,
[such] as the war in Vietnam."
"And we," King added,"are criminals in that war. We have committed more war
crimes almost than any other nation in the world and we won't stop because of
our piide, our arrogance as a nation" [1968fe04:Speech = "The Drum Major
Instinct", in A Testament of Hope, p. 265].
How many know that King said a nation (the U.S.) "approach[ed] spiritual
death" when it spent billions of dollars feeding its costly, cancerous
military industrial complex" while masses of its children lived in poverty in
its outwardly prosperous cities? ["A Time to Break the Silence"]
How many know the King who said that Americans should follow Jesus in being
"maladjusted" and "divine[ly] dissatisfied...until the the tragic walls that
separate the outer city of wealth and comfort from the inner city of poverty
and despair shall be crushed by the battering rams of the forces of
justice.... until slums are cast into the junk heaps of history and every
family is living in a decent home...[and] men will recognize that out of one
blood God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth"? ["The Power of
Nonviolence," Intercollegian (May 1958); "Where Do We Go From Here?"]
How many know the King who told the SCLC that "the movement must address
itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society. There
are forty million poor people," King elaborated for his colleagues. "And one
day we must ask the question, 'Why are there forty million poor people in
America?' And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions
about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you
ask that question you begin to question the capitalistic economy."
"We are called upon," King told his fellow civil rights activists, ''to help
the discouraged beggars in life's marketplace. But one day," he argued, "we
must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
It means that [radical] questions must be raised.....'Who owns the oil'...'Who
owns the iron ore?'...'Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a
world that is two-thirds water?' [SAC]
How many know that King was a democratic socialist who thought that only
"drastic reforms" involving the "radical reconstruction of society itself"
could "save us from social catastrophe" ? [...] King argued that "the roots"
of the economic injustice he sought to overcome "are in the [capitalist]
system rather in men or faulty operations" ["A Testament of Hope;" Martin
Luther King, Jr., The Trumpet of Conscience (NY, 1967); Garrow, Bearing the
Cross, pp. 591-592; Michael Eric Dyson, I May Not Get There With You: The True
Martin Luther King, Jr. (NY, 2000), 87-88]
[...] Here's how King described Jesus at the end of an essay published eight
months after the civil rights leader was assassinated: "A voice out of
Bethlehem two thousand years ago said that all men are equal....Jesus of
Nazareth wrote no books; he owned no property to endow him with influence. He
had no friends in the courts of the powerful. But he changed the course of
mankind with only the poor and the despised." King concluded this final essay,
titled "A Testament of Hope," with a strikingly radical claim, indicating his
strong identification with society's most disadvantaged and outcast persons.
"Naive and unsophisticated though we may be," King said, "the poor and
despised of the twentieth century will revolutionize this era. In our
'arrogance, lawlessness, and ingratitude,' we will fight for human justice,
brotherhood, secure peace, and abundance for all" ["A Testament of Hope"].
If I hadn't known better the first time I read that phrase, I might have
attributed it to Eugene Debs [ID].
Best we get comfortable with King the
Robert Jensen, Professor
Department of Journalism
University of Texas
Austin, TX 78712
work: (512) 471-1990
fax: (512) 471-7979
copyright Robert Jensen 2001
Houston Chronicle, January 14, 2001, p. 5-C; and Fort Worth Star-Telegram,
January 15, 2000
Martin Luther King Jr. has become America’s all-purpose icon for racial harmony.
People who once branded King a threat to the nation will march today in MLK Day
parades. Cities around the country -- even places where King battled segregation
-- name streets after him and put up statues. People of all colors invoke his
name, legacy and memory in support of racial justice.
There’s no doubt that this signals an improvement in race relations. But to make
King a symbol acceptable to most everyone, we have stripped him of the depth and
passion of his critique of white America and its institutions. We conveniently
have ignored the radical nature of King’s analysis, and in doing so we have lost
an opportunity to see ourselves more clearly.
Michael Eric Dyson’s important book,
I May Not Get There with You,
reminds us that toward the end of his life, King underwent a dramatic
transformation from liberal reformer to radical who believed “a reconstruction
of the entire society” was necessary in the United States. But today, King gets
used as “a convenient political football by conservatives and liberals who
attempt to ultimately undermine his most radical threat to the status quo,”
according to Dyson.
If King were alive today, it is difficult to imagine him participating in the
triumphalism and jingoism that is so common, especially around questions of the
“victory” of the United States in economic and foreign policy. I suspect King
would offer a different analysis. Consider this statement from a 1967 speech:
“When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered
more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism,
and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
Our political “leaders” today preach that “free” markets and corporate
capitalism can bring prosperity to all and that U.S. “humanitarian” instincts
can be a force for peace. King preached a different analysis of the effects of
our economic system and foreign policy.
The “glaring contrast of poverty and wealth” that King warned about in 1967 has
grown steadily wider. Around the world, people in grassroots struggles are
resisting the corporate globalization that pushes more people into poverty and
hastens the destruction of natural resources. Resistance to various
U.S.-dominated trade regimens goes on daily around the world, usually under the
radar of mainstream news media. My guess is that King would be part of that
Today the United States is still “the greatest purveyor of violence in the
world,” just as King asserted in 1967. Sometimes that violence is through direct
military assaults, such as the Bush administration’s illegal and deadly invasion
of Panama in 1989 or the Clinton administration’s equally illegal and
counterproductive bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. Sometimes we just provide the
weapons and money, such as the ongoing attacks in Colombia being paid for by the
United States under the cover of a phony drug war. My guess is that King would
oppose such violence.
Of course if King were alive today, no one can know for sure what specific
policy positions he would take. But we can remember the values that energized
and motivated him and the movements of which he was a part, and we can apply
As the incoming Bush administration talks of letting defense contractors line
their pockets with billions more public dollars for an unworkable and
unnecessary missile-defense shield, we might remember King’s assertion that a
nation which spends “more money on military defense than on programs of social
uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
As our unsustainable affluence and orgy of consumption continue to fuel economic
and energy policies that impoverish others around the world and threaten the
very existence of the planet, we might remember that King called for “a radical
revolution of values” in the United States, a “shift from a thing-oriented
society to a person-oriented society.”
On this MLK Day, many people will feel comfortable talking about King’s dream of
a world where the color of our skin doesn’t matter. But fewer will be so
comfortable talking about his analysis of power and call to “move beyond the
prophesying of a smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent.”
On this MLK Day we should remember that King said our country was on “the wrong
side of a world revolution” of oppressed peoples.
On this MLK Day, we should ask: How long can we ignore King’s radical analysis
and still pretend to honor him?
The King Holiday and Its Meaning
by Samuel Francis
This article is reprinted from
the 2/98 issue of American Renaissance, P.O. Box 527, Oakton, VA 22124;
On August 2, 1983, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill
creating a legal public holiday in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Although there had been little discussion of the bill in the House itself
and little awareness among the American public that Congress was even
considering such a bill, it was immediately clear that the U.S. Senate sould
take up the legislation soon after the Labor Day recess.
The House had passed the King Holiday Bill by an overwhelming vote of
338-90, with significant bipartisan support (both Reps. Jack Kemp and Newt
Gingrich voted for it), and the Reagan administration was indicating that
the president would not veto it if it came before him. In these
circumstances, most political observers seemed to think that Senate
enactment and presidential signature of the bill would take place virtually
unopposed; few anticipated that the battle over the King holiday in the next
few weeks would be one of the most bitter congressional and public
controversies of the decade.
From 1981 to 1986 I worked on the staff of North Carolina Republican Sen.
John P. East, a close associate and political ally of the senior senator
from North Carolina, Jesse Helms. While the legislation was being considered
I wrote a paper entitled "Martin Luther King, Jr.: Political Activities and
Associations." It was simply documentation of the affiliations with various
individuals and organizations of communist background that King had
maintained since the days when he first became a nationally prominent
In September, the paper was distributed to several Senate offices for the
purpose of informing them of these facts about King, facts in which the
national news media showed no interest. It was not originally my intention
that the paper be read on the floor of the Senate, but the Helms office
itself expressed an interest in using it as a speech, and it was read in the
Congressional Record on October 3, 1983. During ensuing debate over the
King holiday, I acted as a consultant to Sen. Helms and his regular staff.
Sen. Helms, like Sen. East and many other conservatives in the Senate and
the country, was strongly opposed to establishing a national holiday for
King. The country already observed no fewer than nine legal public holidays
--- New Years Day, "Presidents Day" as it is officially known or
"Washington's Birthday" as an unreconstructed American public continues to
insisting on calling it, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans
Day, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
With the exception of Washington's Birthday and Christmas, not a one of
these holidays celebrates a single individual. As Sen. East argued, to
establish a special holiday just for King was to "elevate him to the same
level as the father of our country and above the many other Americans whose
achievements approach Washington's." Whatever King's own accomplishments,
few would go so far as to claim that they equaled or exceeded those of many
other statesmen, soldiers, and creative minds of American history.
That argument alone should have provided a compelling reason to reject the
King holiday, but for some years a well-organized and powerful lobby had
pressured Congress for its enactment, and anyone who questioned the need for
the holiday was likely to be accused or "racism" or "insensitivity."
Congressional Democrats, always eager to court the black voting bloc that
has become their party's principal mainstay, were solidly in favor of it
(the major exception being Georgia Democrat Larry McDonald, who led the
opposition to the measure in the House and who died before the month was
over when a Soviet warplane shot down the civilian airliner on which he and
nearly three hundred other civilians were traveling).
Republicans, always timid about accusations
of racial insensitivity and eager to court the black vote themselves, were
almost as supportive of the proposal as the Democrats. Few lawmakers stopped
to consider the deeper cultural and political impact a King holiday would
have, and few journalists and opinion-makers encouraged them to consider it.
Instead, almost all of them --- lawmakers and opinion-makers --- devoted
their energies to vilifying the only public leader who displayed the courage
to question the very premise of the proposal --- whether Martin Luther King
was himself worthy of the immense and unprecedented honor being placed upon
It soon became clear that whatever objections might be raised against the
holiday, no one in politics or the media wanted to hear about them and that
even the Republican leadership of the Senate was sympathetic to passage of
the legislation. When the Senate Majority Leader, Howard Baker, scheduled
action to consider the bill soon after Congress returned from the Labor Day
recess, King's widow, Coretta Scott King, called Sen. Baker and urged him to
postpone action in order to gain time to gather more support for the bill.
The senator readily agreed, telling the press, "She felt chances for passage
would be enhanced and improved if it were postponed. The postponement of
this is not for the purpose of delay." Nevertheless, despite the support for
the bill from the Republican leadership itself, the vote was delayed again,
mainly because of the efforts of Sen. Helms.
Sen. Helms delivered his speech on King on October 3 and later supplemented
it with a document of some 300 pages consisting mainly of declassified FBI
and other government reports about King's connections with communists and
communist-influenced groups that the speech recounted. That document,
distributed on the desks of all senators, was promptly characterized as "a
packet of filth" by New York's Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan,
who threw it to the floor of the Senate and stomped on it (he later repeated
his stomping off the Senate floor for the benefit of the evening news),
while Sen. Edward Kennedy denounced the Helms speech as "Red smear tactics"
that should be "shunned by the American people."
A few days later, columnist Edwin M. Yoder, Jr. in the Washington Post
sneered that Jesse Helms "is a stopped clock if ever American politics had
one" who could be depended on to "contaminate a serious argument with
debating points from the gutter," while he described Kings as "a prophet, a
man of good works, a thoroughly wholesome influence in American life."
Writing in the Washington Times, conservative Aram Bakshian held that Sen.
Helms was simply politically motivated: "He has nothing to lose and
everything to gain by heaping scorn on the memory of Martin Luther King and
thereby titillating the great white trash." Leftist Richard Cohen wrote of
Helms in the Post, "His sincerity is not in question. Only his decency."
Meanwhile, Sen. Helms, with legal assistance from the Conservative Caucus,
filed suit in federal court to obtain the release of FBI surveillance tapes
on King that had been sealed by court order until the year 2027. Their
argument was that senators could not fairly evaluate King's character and
beliefs anc ast [sic] an informed vote on the holiday measure until they had
gained access to this sealed material and had an opportunity to examine it.
The Reagan Justice Department opposed this action, and on October 18, U.S.
District Judge John Lewis Smith, Jr. refused to release the King files,
which remain sealed to this day.
Efforts to send the bill to committee also failed. Although it is a routine
practice for the Senate to refer all legislation to committee, where
hearings can consider the merits of the proposed law, this was not done in
the case of the King holiday bill. Sen. Kennedy, a former chairman of the
Senate Judiciary Committee, argued that hearings on a similiar proposal had
been held in a previous Congress and there was no need to hold new hearings.
He was correct that hearings had been held, but there had been considerable
turnover in the Senate since then and copies of those hearings were not
generally available. Nevertheless, it soon became clear that Republicans and
Democrats, liberals and many conservatives, the White House, the courts, and
the media all wanted the King holiday bill passed as soon as possible, with
as little serious discussion of King's character, beliefs, and associations
Why this was so was becoming increasingly clear to me as an observer of the
process. Our office soon began to receive phone calls and letters from all
over the country expressing strong popular opposition to the bill. Aides
from other Senate offices --- I specifically remember one from Washington
state and one from Pennsylvania --- told me their mail from constituents was
running overwhelmingly against the bill, and I recall overhearing Sen.
Robert Dole telling a colleague that he had to go back to Kansas and prove
he was still a Republican despite his support for the King holiday bill. The
political leaders of both parties were beginning to grasp that they were
sitting on top of a potential political earthquake, which they wanted to
stifle before it swallowed them all.
On October 19, then, the vote was held, 78 in favor of the holiday and 22
against (37 Republicans and 41 Democrats voted for the bill; 18 Republicans
and 4 Democrats voted against it); several substitute amendments intended to
replace the King holiday measure were defeated without significant debate.
President Reagan signed the bill into law on November 2nd. I distinctly
remember standing with Sen. Helms in the Republican cloakroom just off the
floor of the Senate during the debate, listening to one senator after
another approaching him to apologize for the insulting language they had
just used about Sen. Helms on the floor. Not a few of the senators assured
him they knew he was right about King but what else could they do but
denounce Helms and vote for the holiday? Most of them claimed political
expediency as their excuse, and I recall one Senate aide chortling that
"what old Jesse needs to do is get back to North Carolina and try to save
his own neck" from the coming disaster he had prepared for himself in
opposing the King holiday.
Indeed, it was conventional wisdom in Washington at the time that Jesse
Helms had committed political suicide by his opposition to the King holiday
and that he was certain to lose re-election the following year against a
challenge by Democratic Governor James B. Hunt. In fact, Sen. Helms was
trailing in the pools prior to the controversy over the holiday. The
Washington Post carried a story shortly after the vote on the holiday bill
with the headline, "Battle to Block King Holiday May Have Hurt Helms at
Home," and a former political reporter from North Carolina confidently
gloated in the Post on October 23 that Helms was "Destined to Lose in '84."
In the event, of course, Sen. Helms was re-elected by a healthy margin, and
the Post itself acknowledged the role of his opposition to the King holiday
as a major factor in his political revival. As Post reporter Bill Peterson
wrote in news stories after Helms' re-election on November 6, 1984, his
"standing among whites . . . shot up in polls after he led a filibuster
against a bill establishing a national holiday on the birthday of the late
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.," and on November 18, "A poll before the
filibuster showed Helms trailing Hunt by 20 percentage points. By October,
Hunt's lead was sliced in half. White voters who had been feeling doubts
about Helms began returning to the fold." If Sen. Helms' speech against the
King holiday had any enduring effect, then, it was to help re-elect him to
So, was Jesse Helms right about Martin Luther King? That King had close
connections with individuals and groups that were openly communist is clear
today, as it was clear during King's own lifetime and during the debate on
the holiday bill. Indeed, only two weeks after the Senate vote, on November
1, 1983, the New York Times published a letter written by Michael Parenti,
an associate fellow of the far-left Institute for Policy Studies in
Washington and a frequent contributor to Political Affairs, an official
organ of the Communist Party that styles itself the "Theoretical Journal of
the Communist Party USA."
The letter demanded "What if communists had links to Dr. King?" Mr. Parenti
pointed out that "The three areas in which King was most active --- civil
rights, peace and the labor struggle (the latter two toward the end of his
life) --- are also areas in which U.S. Communists have worked long and
devotedly," and he criticized "liberals" who "once again accept the
McCarthyite premise that U.S. Communists are purveyors of evil and that any
association with them taints one forever. Dr. King himself would not have
accepted such a premise." Those of Mr. Parenti's persuasion may see nothing
scandalous in associations with known communists, but the "liberals" whom he
criticized knew better than to make that argument in public.
Of course, to say that King maintained close affiliations with persons whom
he knew to be communists is not to say that King himself was ever a
communist or that the movement he led was controlled by communists; but his
continuing associations with communists, and his repeated dishonesty about
those connections, do raise serious questions about his own character, about
the nature of his own political views and goals, and about whether we as a
nation should have awarded him (and should continue to award him) the honor
the holiday confers. Moreover, the embarrassing political connections that
were known at the time seem today to be merely the tip of the ethical and
political iceberg with which King's reputation continues to collide.
While researching King's background in 1983,
I deliberately chose to dwell
on his communist affiliations rather than on other issues involving his
sexual morality. I did so because at that time the facts about King's
subversive connections were well-documented, while the details of his sex
life were not. In the course of writing the paper, however, I spoke to
several former agents of the FBI who had been personally engaged in the FBI
surveillance of King and who knew from first-hand observation that the
rumors about his undisciplined sex life were substantially true.
A few years later, with the publication in 1989 of Ralph Abernathy's
autobiography, "And the Walls Came Tumbling Down," those rumors were
substantiated by one of King's closest friends and political allies. It is
quite true that a person's sex life is largely his own business, but in the
case of an internationally prominent figure such as King, they become
publicly relevant, and they are especially relevant given the high moral
stature King's admirers habitually ascribe to him, the issue of his
integrity as a Christian clergyman, and the proposal to elevate him to the
status of a national moral icon.
In the course of the Senate debate on the King holiday, the East office
received a letter from a retired FBI official, Charles D. Brennan. Mr.
Brennan, who had served as Assistant Director of the FBI, stated that he had
personally been involved in the FBI surveillance of King and knew from
first-hand observation the truth about King's sexual conduct --- conduct
that Mr. Brennan characterized as "orgiastic and adulterous escapades, some
of which indicated that King could be bestial in his sexual abuse of women."
He also stated that "King frequently drank to excess and at times exhibited
extreme emotional instability as when he once threatened to jump from his
hotel room window." In a study that he prepared, Mr. Brennan described
King's "sexual activities and his excessive drinking" that FBI surveillance
discovered. It was this kind of conduct, he wrote, that led
FBI Director J.
Edgar Hoover to describe King as "a tomcat with obsessive degenerate sexual
urges" and President Lyndon Johnson to call King a "hypocrite preacher." Mr.
Brennan also acknowledged:
"It was much the FBI collected. It was not the FBI's most shining hour.
There would be no point in wallowing in it again. The point is that it is
there. It is there in the form of transcripts, recordings, photos and logs.
It is there in great quantity. There are volumes of material labeled
'obscene.' Future historians just will not be able to avoid it."
It is precisely this material that is sealed under court order until the
year 2027 and to which the Senate was denied access prior to the vote on the
One instance from King's life that perhaps illuminates his character was
provided by historian David Garrow in his study of the FBI's surveillance of
King. Garrow recounts what the FBI gathered during a 48-hour surveillance of
King between February 22 and 24, 1964 in the Hyatt House Motel in Los
Angeles: "In that forty-eight hours the Bureau acquired what in retrospect
would be its most prized recordings of Dr. King. The treasured highlight was
a long and extremely funny story-telling session during which King (a)
bestowed supposedly honorific titles or appointments of an explicitly sexual
nature on some of his friends, (b) engaged in an extended dialogue of
double-entendre phrases that had sexual as well as religious connotations,
and (c) told an explicit joke about the rumored sexual practices of recently
assassinated President John F. Kennedy, with reference to both Mrs. Kennedy,
and the President' funeral."
Garrow's characterization of the episode as "extremely funny" is one way of
describing the incident; another is that during the session in Los Angeles,
King, a Christian minister, made obscene jokes with his own followers
(several of them also ministers), made sexual and sacreligious jokes, and
made obscene and insulting remarks intended to be funny about the late
President Kennedy and his sex life with Mrs. Kennedy.
It should be recalled that these jokes were made by King about a man who had
supported his controversial cause, had lost political support because of his
support for King and the civil rights movement, and had been dead for less
than three months at the time King engaged in obscene humor about him and
his wife. In February, 1964, the nation was still in a state of shock over
Kennedy's death, but King apparently found his death a suitable occasion for
More recently still, in addition to disclosures about King's bizarre sex
life and his close connections with communists, it has come to light that
King's record of deliberate deception in his own personal interests reaches
as far back as his years in college and graduate school, when
significant portions of his research papers and even his doctoral
dissertation, an act that would cause the immediate ruin of any academic
figure. Evidence of King's plagiarism, which was almost certainly known to
his academic sponsors at Boston University and was indisputably known to
other academics at the King Papers Project at Stanford University, was
deliberately suppressed and denied. It finally came to light in reports
published by The Wall Street Journal in 1990 and was later exhaustively
documented in articles and a monograph by Theodore Pappas of the Rockford
Yet, incredibly --- even after thorough documentation of King's affiliations
with communists, after the revelations about his personal moral flaws, and
after proof of his brazen dishonesty in plagiarizing his dissertation and
several other published writings --- incredibly there is no proposal to
rescind the holiday that honors him. Indeed, states like Arizona and New
Hampshire that did not rush to adopt their own holidays in honor of King
have themselves been vilified and threatened with systematic boycotts.
The continuing indulgence of King is in part due to simple political
cowardice --- fear of being denounced as a "racist" --- but also to the
political utility of the King holiday for those who seek to advance their
own political agenda. Almost immediately upon the enactment of the holiday
bill, the King holiday came to serve as a kind of charter for the radical
regime of "political correctness" and "multiculturalism" that now prevails
at many of the nation's major universities and in many areas of public and
This is so because the argument generally offered for the King holiday by
King's own radical collaborators and disciples is considerably different
from the argument for it offered by most Republicans and Democrats. The
latter argue that they simply want to celebrate what they take to be King's
personal courage and commitment to racial tolerance; the holiday, in their
view, is simply celebratory and commemorative, and they do not intend that
the holiday should advance any other agenda. But this is not the argument in
favor of the King holiday that we hear from partisans like Mrs. King and
those who harbor similar views. A few days after Senate passage of the
holiday measure, Mrs. King wrote in the Washington Post (10/23/83) about how
the holiday should be observed.
"The holiday," she wrote, "must be substantive as well as symbolic. It must
be more than a day of celebration . . . Let this holiday be a day of
reflection, a day of teaching nonviolent philosophy and strategy, a day of
getting involved in nonviolent action for social and economic progress."
Mrs. King noted that for years the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for
Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta "has conducted activities around his
birthday in many cities. The week-long observance has included a series of
educational programs, policy seminars or conferences, action-oriented
workshops, strategy sessions and planning meetings dealing with
variety of current issues, from voter registration to full employment to
citizen action for nuclear disarmament."
A few months later, Robert Weisbrot, a fellow of the DuBois Institute at
Harvard, was writing in The New Republic (1/30/84) that "in all, the
nation's first commemoration of King's life invites not only celebration,
but also cerebration over his --- and the country's --- unfinished tasks."
Those "unfinished tasks," according to Mr. Weisbrot, included "curbing
disparities of wealth and opportunity in a society still ridden by caste
distinctions," a task toward the accomplishment of which "the reforms of the
early '60s" were "only a first step." Among those contemporary leaders
"seeking to extend Martin Luther King's legacy," Mr. Weisbrot wrote, "by far
the most influential and best known is his former aide, Jesse Jackson."
The exploitation of the King holiday for radical political purposes was even
further enhanced by Vincent Harding, "Professor of Religion and Social
Transformation at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver," writing in The
New York Times (1/18/88). Professor Harding rejected the notion that the
King holiday commemorates merely "a kind, gentle and easily managed
religious leader of a friendly crusade for racial integration." Such an
understanding would "demean and trivialize Dr. King's meaning." Professor
"The Martin Luther King of 1968 was calling for and leading civil
disobedience campaigns against the unjust war in Vietnam. Courageously
describing our nation as 'the greatest purveyor of violence in the world
today,' he was urging us away from a dependence on military solutions. He
was encouraging young men to refuse to serve in the military, challenging
them not to support America's anti-Communist crusades, which were really
destroying the hopes of poor nonwhite peoples everywhere. This Martin Luther
King was calling for a radical redistribution of wealth and political power
in American society as a way to provide food, clothing, shelter, medical
care, jobs, education and hope for all of our country's people."
To those of King's own political views, then,
the true meaning of the
holiday is that it serves to legitimize the radical social and political
agenda that King himself favored and to delegitimize traditional American
social and cultural institutions --- not simply those that supported racial
segregation but also those that support a free market economy, an
anti-communist foreign policy, and a constitutional system that restrains
the power of the state rather than one that centralizes and expands power
for the reconstruction of society and the redistribution of wealth.
In this sense, the campaign to enact the legal public holiday in honor of
Martin Luther King was a small first step on the long march to revolution, a
charter by which that revolution is justified as the true and ultimate
meaning of the American identity. In this sense, and also in King's own
sense, as he defined it in his speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, the
Declaration of Independence becomes a "promissory note" by which the state
is authorized to pursue social and economic egalitarianism as its mission,
and all institutions and values that fail to reflect the dominance of
equality --- racial, cultural, national, economic, political and social ---
must be overcome and discarded.
By placing King --- and therefore his own radical ideology of social
transformation and reconstruction --- into the central pantheon of American
history, the King holiday provides a green light by which the revolutionary
process of transformation and reconstruction can charge full speed ahead.
Moreover, by placing King at the center of the American national pantheon,
the holiday also serves to undermine any argument against the revolutionary
political agenda that it has come to symbolize. Having promoted or accepted
the symbol of the new dogma as a defining --- perhaps the defining --- icon
of the American political order, those who oppose the revolutionary agenda
the symbol represents have little ground to resist that agenda.
It is hardly an accident, then, that in the years since the enactment of the
holiday and the elevation of King as a national icon, systematic attacks on
the Confederacy and its symbolism were initiated, movements to ban the
teaching of "Western civilization" came to fruition on major American
universities, Thomas Jefferson was denounced as a "racist" and "slaveowner,"
and George Washington's name was removed from a public school in New Orleans
on the grounds that he too owned slaves.
In the new nation and the new creed of which the King holiday serves as
symbol, all institutions, values, heroes, and symbols that violate the dogma
of equality are dethroned and must be eradicated. Those associated with the
South and the Confederacy are merely the most obvious violations of the
egalitarian dogma and therefore must be the first to go, but they will by no
means be the last.
The political affiliations of Martin Luther King that Sen. Jesse Helms so
courageously exposed are thus only pointers to the real danger that the King
holiday represents. The logical meaning of the holiday is the ultimate
destruction of the American Republic as it has been conceived and defined
throughout our history, and until the charter for revolution that it
represents is repealed, we can expect only further installations of the
destruction and dispossession it promises.
(Samuel Francis is a nationally syndicated columnist.)
The Beast as Saint:
The Truth About "Martin Luther King, Jr."
by Kevin Alfred Strom
(A speech given by Mr. Strom on the nationwide radio program, AMERICAN DISSIDENT
VOICES, January 15th, 1994)
WHEN THE COMMUNISTS TOOK OVER a country, one of the first things
that they did was to confiscate all the privately-held weapons, to deny the
people the physical ability to resist tyranny. But even more insidious than the
theft of the people's weapons was the theft of their history. Official Communist
"historians" rewrote history to fit the current party line. In many countries,
revered national heroes were excised from the history books, or their real deeds
were distorted to fit Communist ideology, and Communist killers and criminals
were converted into official "saints." Holidays were declared in honor of the
beasts who murdered countless nations.
Did you know that much the same process has occurred right here in America?
Every January, the media go into a kind of almost spastic frenzy of adulation
for the so-called "Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr." King has even had a
national holiday declared in his honor, an honor accorded to no other American,
not Washington, not Jefferson, not Lincoln. (Washington and Lincoln no longer
have holidays -- they share the generic-sounding "President's Day.") A liberal
judge has sealed the FBI files on King until the year 2027. What are they
hiding? Let's take a look at this modern-day plastic god.
Born in 1929, King was the son of a Black preacher known at the time only as
"Daddy King." "Daddy King" named his son Michael. In 1935, "Daddy King" had an
inspiration to name himself after the Protestant reformer Martin Luther. He
declared to his congregation that henceforth they were to refer to him as
"Martin Luther King" and to his son as "Martin Luther King, Jr." None of this
name changing was ever legalized in court. "Daddy" King's son's real name is to
this day Michael King.
King's Brazen Cheating
We read in Michael Hoffman's "Holiday for a Cheater":
The first public sermon that King ever gave, in 1947 at the
Ebenezer Baptist Church, was plagiarized from a homily by Protestant clergyman
Harry Emerson Fosdick entitled "Life is What You Make It," according to the
testimony of King's best friend of that time, Reverend Larry H. Williams.
The first book that King wrote, "Stride Toward Freedom, - -was
plagiarized from numerous sources, all unattributed, according to documentation
recently assembled by sympathetic King scholars Keith D. Miller, Ira G. Zepp,
Jr., and David J. Garrow.
And no less an authoritative source than the four senior editors of "The Papers
of Martin Luther King, Jr.- - (an official publication of the Martin Luther King
Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc., whose staff includes King's widow
Coretta), stated of King's writings at both Boston University and Crozer
Theological Seminary: "Judged retroactively by the standards of academic
scholarship, [his writings] are tragically flawed by numerous instances of
plagiarism.... Appropriated passages are particularly evident in his writings in
his major field of graduate study, systematic theology."
King's essay, "The Place of Reason and Experience in Finding God," written at
Crozer, pirated passages from the work of theologian Edgar S. Brightman, author
of "The Finding of God."
Another of King's theses, "Contemporary Continental Theology," written shortly
after he entered Boston University, was largely stolen from a book by Walter
King's doctoral dissertation, "A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the
Thinking of Paul Tillich and Harry Nelson Wieman," for which he was awarded a
PhD in theology, contains more than fifty complete sentences plagiarized from
the PhD dissertation of Dr. Jack Boozer, "The Place of Reason in Paul Tillich's
Concept of God."
According to "The Martin Luther King Papers", in King's dissertation "only 49
per cent of sentences in the section on Tillich contain five or more words that
were King's own...."!
In "The Journal of American History", June 1991, page 87, David J. Garrow, a
leftist academic who is sympathetic to King, says that King's wife, Coretta
Scott King, who also served as his secretary, was an accomplice in his repeated
cheating. ("King's Plagiarism: Imitation, Insecurity and Transformation," The
Journal of American History, June 1991, p. 87)
Reading Garrow's article, one is led to the inescapable conclusion that King
cheated because he had chosen for himself a political role in which a PhD would
be useful, and, lacking the intellectual ability to obtain the title fairly,
went after it by any means necessary. Why, then, one might ask, did the
professors at Crozer Theological Seminary and Boston University grant him
passing grades and a PhD? Garrow states on page 89: "King's academic
compositions, especially at Boston University, were almost without exception
little more than summary descriptions... and comparisons of other's writings.
Nonetheless, the papers almost always received desirable letter grades, strongly
suggesting that King's professors did not expect more...." The editors of "The
Martin Luther King Jr. Papers" state that "...the failure of King's teachers to
notice his pattern of textual appropriation is somewhat remarkable...."
But researcher Michael Hoffman tells us "...actually the malfeasance of the
professors is not at all remarkable. King was politically correct, he was Black,
and he had ambitions. The leftist [professors were] happy to award a doctorate
to such a candidate no matter how much fraud was involved. Nor is it any wonder
that it has taken forty years for the truth about King's record of nearly
constant intellectual piracy to be made public."
Supposed scholars, who in reality shared King's vision of a racially mixed and
Marxist America, purposely covered up his cheating for decades. The cover-up
still continues. From the "New York Times" of October 11, 1991, page 15, we
learn that on October 10th of that year, a committee of researchers at Boston
University admitted that, "There is no question but that Dr. King plagiarized in
the dissertation." However, despite its finding, the committee said that "No
thought should be given to the revocation of Dr. King's doctoral degree," an
action the panel said "would serve no purpose."
No purpose, indeed! Justice demands that, in light of his willful fraud as a
student, the "reverend" and the "doctor" should be removed from King's name.
Communist Beliefs and Connections
Well friends, he is not a legitimate reverend, he is not a bona
fide PhD, and his name isn't really "Martin Luther King, Jr." What's left? Just
a sexual degenerate, an America-hating Communist, and a criminal betrayer of
even the interests of his own people.
On Labor Day, 1957, a special meeting was attended by Martin Luther King and
four others at a strange institution called the Highlander Folk School in
Monteagle, Tennessee. The Highlander Folk School was a Communist front, having
been founded by Myles Horton (Communist Party organizer for Tennessee) and Don
West (Communist Party organizer for North Carolina). The leaders of this meeting
with King were the aforementioned Horton and West, along with Abner Berry and
James Dumbrowski, all open and acknowledged members of the Communist Party, USA.
The agenda of the meeting was a plan to tour the Southern states to initiate
demonstrations and riots.
From 1955 to 1960, Martin Luther King's associate, advisor, and personal
secretary was one Bayard Rustin. In 1936 Rustin joined the Young Communist
League at New York City College. Convicted of draft-dodging, he went to prison
for two years in 1944. On January 23, 1953 the "Los Angeles Times" reported his
conviction and sentencing to jail for 60 days for lewd vagrancy and homosexual
perversion. Rustin attended the 16th Convention of the Communist Party, USA in
February, 1957. One month later, he and King founded the Southern Christian
Leadership Conference, or SCLC for short. The president of the SCLC was Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. The vice-president of the SCLC was the Reverend Fred
Shuttlesworth, who was also the president of an identified Communist front known
as the Southern Conference Educational Fund, an organization whose field
director, a Mr. Carl Braden, was simultaneously a national sponsor of the Fair
Play for Cuba Committee, of which you may have heard. The program director of
the SCLC was the Reverend Andrew Young, in more recent years Jimmy Carter's
ambassador to the UN and mayor of Atlanta. Young, by the way, was trained at the
Highlander Folk School, previously mentioned.
Soon after returning from a trip to Moscow in 1958, Rustin organized the first
of King's famous marches on Washington. The official organ of the Communist
Party, "The Worker,- - openly declared the march to be a Communist project.
Although he left King's employ as secretary in 1961, Rustin was called upon by
King to be second in command of the much larger march on Washington which took
place on August 28, 1963.
Bayard Rustin's replacement in 1961 as secretary and advisor to King was Jack
O'Dell, also known as Hunter Pitts O'Dell. According to official records, in
1962 Jack O'Dell was a member of the National Committee of the Communist Party,
USA. He had been listed as a Communist Party member as early as 1956. O'Dell was
also given the job of acting executive director for SCLC activities for the
entire Southeast, according to the St. Louis "Globe-Democrat - -of October 26,
1962. At that time, there were still some patriots in the press corps, and word
of O'Dell's party membership became known.
What did King do? Shortly after the negative news reports, King fired O'Dell
with much fanfare. And he then, without the fanfare, "immediately hired him
again- - as director of the New York office of the SCLC, as confirmed by the
"Richmond News-Leader - -of September 27, 1963. In 1963 a Black man from Monroe,
North Carolina named Robert Williams made a trip to Peking, China. Exactly 20
days before King's 1963 march on Washington, Williams successfully urged Mao
Tse-Tung to speak out on behalf of King's movement. Mr. Williams was also around
this time maintaining his primary residence in Cuba, from which he made regular
broadcasts to the southern US, three times a week, from high-power AM
transmitters in Havana under the title "Radio Free Dixie." In these broadcasts,
he urged violent attacks by Blacks against White Americans.
During this period, Williams wrote a book entitled "Negroes With Guns." The
writer of the foreword for this book? None other than Martin Luther King, Jr. It
is also interesting to note that the editors and publishers of this book were to
a man all supporters of the infamous Fair Play for Cuba Committee.
According to King's biographer and sympathizer David J. Garrow, "King privately
described himself as a Marxist." In his 1981 book, "The FBI and Martin Luther
King, Jr.", Garrow quotes King as saying in SCLC staff meetings, "...we have
moved into a new era, which must be an era of revolution.... The whole structure
of American life must be changed.... We are engaged in the class struggle."
Jewish Communist Stanley Levison can best be described as King's
behind-the-scenes "handler." Levison, who had for years been in charge of the
secret funnelling of Soviet funds to the Communist Party, USA, was King's mentor
and was actually the brains behind many of King's more successful ploys. It was
Levison who edited King's book, "Stride Toward Freedom." It was Levison who
arranged for a publisher. Levison even prepared King's income tax returns! It
was Levison who really controlled the fund-raising and agitation activities of
the SCLC. Levison wrote many of King's speeches. King described Levison as one
of his "closest friends."
FBI: King Bought Sex With SCLC Money
The Federal Bureau of Investigation had for many years been
aware of Stanley Levison's Communist activities. It was Levison's close
association with King that brought about the initial FBI interest in King.
Lest you be tempted to believe the controlled media's lie about "racists" in the
FBI being out to "get" King, you should be aware that the man most responsible
for the FBI's probe of King was Assistant Director William C. Sullivan. Sullivan
describes himself as a liberal, and says that initially "I was one hundred per
cent for King...because I saw him as an effective and badly needed leader for
the Black people in their desire for civil rights." The probe of King not only
confirmed their suspicions about King's Communist beliefs and associations, but
it also revealed King to be a despicable hypocrite, an immoral degenerate, and a
According to Assistant Director Sullivan, who had direct access to the
surveillance files on King which are denied the American people, King had
embezzled or misapplied substantial amounts of money contributed to the "civil
rights" movement. King used SCLC funds to pay for liquor, and numerous
prostitutes both Black and White, who were brought to his hotel rooms, often two
at a time, for drunken sex parties which sometimes lasted for several days.
These types of activities were the norm for King's speaking and organizing
In fact, an outfit called The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis,
Tennessee, which is putting on display the two bedrooms from the Lorraine Motel
where King stayed the night before he was shot, has declined to depict in any
way the "occupants - -of those rooms. That "according to exhibit designer Gerard
Eisterhold "would be "close to blasphemy." The reason? Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr. spent his last night on Earth having sex with two women at the motel and
physically beating and abusing a third.
Sullivan also stated that King had alienated the affections of numerous married
women. According to Sullivan, who in 30 years with the Bureau had seen
everything there was to be seen of the seamy side of life, King was one of only
seven people he had ever encountered who was such a total degenerate.
Noting the violence that almost invariably attended King's supposedly
"non-violent" marches, Sullivan's probe revealed a very different King from the
carefully crafted public image. King welcomed members of many different Black
groups as members of his SCLC, many of them advocates and practitioners of
violence. King's only admonition on the subject was that they should embrace
Sullivan also relates an incident in which King met in a financial conference
with Communist Party representatives, not knowing that one of the participants
was an infiltrator actually working for the FBI.
J. Edgar Hoover personally saw to it that documented information on King's
Communist connections was provided to the President and to Congress. And
conclusive information from FBI files was also provided to major newspapers and
news wire services. But were the American people informed of King's real nature?
No, for even in the 1960s, the fix was in "the controlled media and the bought
politicians were bound and determined to push their racial mixing program on
America. King was their man and nothing was going to get in their way. With a
few minor exceptions, these facts have been kept from the American people. The
pro-King propaganda machine grinds on, and it is even reported that a serious
proposal has been made to add some of King's writings as a new book in the
Ladies and gentlemen, the purpose of this radio program is far greater than to
prove to you the immorality and subversion of this man called King. I want you
to start to think for yourselves. I want you to consider this: What are the
forces and motivation behind the controlled media's active promotion of King?
What does it tell you about our politicians when you see them, almost without
exception, falling all over themselves to honor King as a national hero? What
does it tell you about our society when any public criticism of this moral leper
and Communist functionary is considered grounds for dismissal? What does it tell
you about the controlled media when you see how they have successfully
suppressed the truth and held out a picture of King that can only be described
as a colossal lie? You need to think, my fellow Americans. You desperately need
to wake up.
1. The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.- - (an official
publication of the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change).
2. "King's Plagiarism: Imitation, Insecurity and Transformation,"
The Journal of
American History, June 1991, p. 87) David J. Garrow
3. New York Times of October 11, 1991, page 15.
4. "The FBI and Martin Luther King, Jr.", David J. Garrow, (1981).
5. "And the walls came tumbling down," Rev. Ralph Abernathy (1989)