Martin Luther King, Jr. [1929-1968]

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Martin Luther King, Jr. [1929-1968] 04.04.2008 23:53:46 (permalink)

Date of birth: January 15, 1929(1929-01-15)
Place of birth: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Date of death: April 4, 1968 (aged 39)
Place of death: Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Movement: African-American Civil Rights Movement and Peace Movement
Major organizations: Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Notable prizes: Nobel Peace Prize (1964) Presidential Medal of Freedom (1977, posthumous)Congressional Gold Medal (2004, posthumous)
Major monuments: Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial (planned)
Religion: Baptist
Influences Jesus Christ, Howard Thurman, Mahatma Gandhi, Henry David Thoreau, Bayard Rustin
Influenced Coretta Scott King, Jesse Jackson

Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929April 4, 1968) was one of the pivotal leaders of the American civil rights movement. King was a Baptist minister, one of the few leadership roles available to black men at the time. He became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955–1956) and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (1957), serving as its first president. His efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Here he raised public consciousness of the civil rights movement and established himself as one of the greatest orators in U.S. history. In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end segregation and racial discrimination through civil disobedience and other non-violent means.

King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter in 1977. Martin Luther King Day was established as a national holiday in the United States in 1986. In 2004, King was posthumously awarded a Congressional Gold Medal.[1]


March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

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

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

The march originally was conceived as an event to dramatize the desperate condition of blacks in the South and a very public opportunity to place organizers' concerns and grievances squarely before the seat of power in the nation's capital. Organizers intended to excoriate and then challenge the federal government for its failure to safeguard the civil rights and physical safety of civil rights workers and blacks, generally, in the South. However, the group acquiesced to presidential pressure and influence, and the event ultimately took on a far less strident tone.

As a result, some civil rights activists felt it presented an inaccurate, sanitized pageant of racial harmony; Malcolm X called it the "Farce on Washington," and members of the Nation of Islam who attended the march faced a temporary suspension.[7]

The march did, however, make specific demands: an end to racial segregation in public school; meaningful civil rights legislation, including a law prohibiting racial discrimination in employment; protection of civil rights workers from police brutality; a $2 minimum wage for all workers; and self-government for the District of Columbia, then governed by congressional committee.

Despite tensions, the march was a resounding success. More than a quarter million people of diverse ethnicities attended the event, sprawling from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial onto the National Mall and around the reflecting pool. At the time, it was the largest gathering of protesters in Washington's history. King's "I Have a Dream" speech electrified the crowd. It is regarded, along with Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and Franklin D. Roosevelt's Infamy Speech, as one of the finest speeches in the history of American oratory.

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

"Bloody Sunday", 1965

Main article: Selma to Montgomery marches

King and SCLC, in partial collaboration with SNCC, attempted to organize a march from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery, for March 7, 1965. The first attempt to march on March 7 was aborted because of mob and police violence against the demonstrators. This day has since become known as Bloody Sunday. Bloody Sunday was a major turning point in the effort to gain public support for the Civil Rights Movement, the clearest demonstration up to that time of the dramatic potential of King's nonviolence strategy. King, however, was not present. After meeting with President Lyndon B. Johnson, he attempted to delay the march until March 8, but the march was carried out against his wishes and without his presence by local civil rights workers. Footage of the police brutality against the protesters was broadcast extensively and aroused national public outrage.

King next attempted to organize a march for March 9. The SCLC petitioned for an injunction in federal court against the State of Alabama; this was denied and the judge issued an order blocking the march until after a hearing. King lead the marchers on the 9th to the Edmund Pettus bridge, then held a short prayer session before turning the marchers around and asking them to disperse, so as not to violate the court order. The unexpected ending of a second attempt of the march aroused the surprise and anger of many within the local movement. The march finally went ahead fully on March 25, and it was during this march that Willie Ricks coined the phrase "Black Power" (widely credited to Stokely Carmichael). On the steps of the state capitol building, King delivered a speech that has become known as "How Long, Not Long."

Chicago, 1966

King with President Lyndon Johnson in 1966

In 1966, after several successes in the South, King and other people in the civil rights organizations tried to spread the movement to the North, with Chicago as its first destination. King and Ralph Abernathy, both middle class folk, moved into Chicago's slums as an educational experience and to demonstrate their support and empathy for the poor.

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

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

In Chicago, Abernathy later wrote that they received a worse reception than they had in the South. Their marches were met by thrown bottles and screaming throngs, and they were truly afraid of starting a riot. King's beliefs mitigated against his staging a violent event; if King had intimations that a peaceful march would be put down with violence he would call it off for the safety of others. Nonetheless, he led these marches in the face of death threats to his person. And in Chicago the violence was so formidable it shook the two friends.

When King and his allies returned to the south, they left Jesse Jackson, a seminary student who had previously joined the movement in the South, in charge of their organization. Jackson displayed oratorical skill and organized the first successful boycotts against chain stores. One such campaign targeted A&P Stores which refused to hire blacks as clerks; the campaign was so effective that it laid the groundwork for the equal opportunity programs begun in the 1970s.

Opposition to the Vietnam War, 1967

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

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just." [8]

King was long hated by many white southern segregationists, but this speech turned the more mainstream media against him. Time called the speech "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi", and The Washington Post declared that King had "diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."

With regard to Vietnam, King often claimed that North Vietnam "did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had arrived in the tens of thousands." King also praised North Vietnam's land reform.[9] He accused the United States of having killed a million Vietnamese, "mostly children."[10]

The speech was a reflection of King's evolving political advocacy in his later years, sparked in part by his affiliation with and training at the progressive Highlander Research and Education Center. King began to speak of the need for fundamental changes in the political and economic life of the nation. Toward the end of his life, King more frequently expressed his opposition to the war and his desire to see a redistribution of resources to correct racial and economic injustice. Though his public language was guarded, so as to avoid being linked to communism by his political enemies, in private he sometimes spoke of his support for democratic socialism:

You can't talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can't talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You're really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry… Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong… with capitalism… There must be a better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.[11]

King had read Marx while at Morehouse, but while he rejected "traditional capitalism," he also rejected Communism because of its "materialistic interpretation of history" that denied religion, its "ethical relativism," and its "political totalitarianism."[12]

King also stated in his "Beyond Vietnam" speech:[13] "True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring." From Vietnam to South Africa to Latin America, King said, the U.S. was "on the wrong side of a world revolution." King questioned "our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America," and asked why the U.S. was suppressing revolutions "of the shirtless and barefoot people" in the Third World, instead of supporting them.

Poor People's Campaign, 1968

In 1968, King and the SCLC organized the "Poor People's Campaign" to address issues of economic justice. However, according to the article "Coalition Building and Mobilization Against Poverty", King and SCLC's Poor People's Campaign was not supported by the other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, including Bayard Rustin. Their opposition incorporated arguments that the goals of Poor People Campaign were too broad, the demands unrealizable, and thought these campaigns would accelerate the backlash and repression on the poor and the black.[14]

The campaign culminated in a march on Washington, D.C. demanding economic aid to the poorest communities of the United States. He crisscrossed the country to assemble "a multiracial army of the poor" that would descend on Washington — engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol, if need be — until Congress enacted a poor people's bill of rights. Reader's Digest warned of an "insurrection."

King's economic bill of rights called for massive government jobs programs to rebuild America's cities. He saw a crying need to confront a Congress that had demonstrated its "hostility to the poor" — appropriating "military funds with alacrity and generosity," but providing "poverty funds with miserliness." His vision was for change that was more revolutionary than mere reform: he cited systematic flaws of racism, poverty, militarism and materialism, and that "reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced."[15]

Assassination, 1968

Main article: Martin Luther King, Jr. assassination

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

On March 30, 1968, King went to Memphis, Tennessee in support of the black sanitary public works employees, represented by AFSCME Local 1733, who had been on strike since March 12 for higher wages and better treatment. (For example, African American workers, unlike white workers, were not paid when sent home because of inclement weather.)[16][17][18]

On April 3, King returned to Memphis and addressed a rally, delivering his "I've been to the Mountaintop" address at Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ, Inc. – World Headquarters). King's flight to Memphis had been delayed by a bomb threat against his plane.[19] In the close of the last speech of his career, in reference to the bomb threat, King said the following:

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

King was booked in room 306 at the Lorraine Motel, owned by Walter Bailey, in Memphis. The Reverend Ralph Abernathy, King's close friend and colleague who was present at the assassination, swore under oath to the HSCA that King and his entourage stayed at room 306 at the Lorraine Motel so often it was known as the 'King-Abernathy suite.'[21] While King was standing on the motel's 2nd floor balcony, James Earl Ray shot him at 6:01 p.m. April 4, 1968. The bullet entered through his right cheek smashing his jaw and then traveling down his spinal cord before lodging in his shoulder.[22] According to biographer Taylor Branch, and also Jesse Jackson, who was present[23], King's last words on the balcony were to musician Ben Branch (no relation to Taylor Branch) who was scheduled to perform that night at an event King was attending: "Ben, make sure you play Take My Hand, Precious Lord in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty."[24] Abernathy was inside the motel room heard the shot and ran to the balcony to find King on the floor. There is some disagreement as to whether it was Abernathy who was on the balcony with King, and Jesse Jackson who ran onto the balcony after the shot was fired.Koch disputes Jackson's statements about MLK assasination Local Rev. Samuel "Billy" Kyles, whose house King was on his way to visit, remembers that upon seeing King go down he ran into a hotel room to call an ambulance. Nobody was on the switchboard, so Kyles ran back out and yelled to the police to get one on their radios. It was later revealed that the hotel switchboard operator, upon seeing King shot, had had a fatal heart attack and could not operate the phones.[25] King was pronounced dead at St. Joseph's Hospital at 7:05 p.m. The assassination led to a nationwide wave of riots in more than 100 cities.[26]

Five days later, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a national day of mourning for the lost civil rights leader. A crowd of 300,000 attended his funeral that same day. Vice-President Hubert Humphrey attended on behalf of Lyndon B. Johnson, who was holding a meeting on the Vietnam War at Camp David. (There were fears that Johnson's presence might incite protests and perhaps violence.) At his widow's request, King's last sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church was played at the funeral. It was a recording of his famous 'Drum Major' sermon, given on February 4, 1968. In that sermon King made a request that at his funeral no mention of his awards and honors be made, but that it be said that he tried to "feed the hungry", "clothe the naked", "be right on the [Vietnam] war question", and "love and serve humanity". Per King's request, his good friend Mahalia Jackson sang his favorite hymn, "Take My hand, Precious Lord" at his funeral.

According to biographer Taylor Branch, King's autopsy revealed that though he was only 39 years old, he had the heart of a 60-year-old man, evidencing the stress of 13 years in the civil rights movement.[27]
After the assassination, the city of Memphis quickly settled the strike on terms favorable to the sanitation workers.[28][29]

Two months after King's death, escaped convict James Earl Ray was captured at London Heathrow Airport while trying to leave the United Kingdom on a false Canadian passport in the name of Ramon George Sneyd. Ray was quickly extradited to Tennessee and charged with King's murder. He confessed to the assassination on March 10, 1969, though he recanted this confession three days later. On the advice of his attorney Percy Foreman, Ray took a guilty plea to avoid a trial conviction and thus the possibility of receiving the death penalty. Ray was sentenced to a 99-year prison term.

Ray fired Foreman as his attorney (from then on derisively calling him "Percy Fourflusher"). He claimed that a man he met in Montreal, Canada with the alias "Raoul" was involved, as was his brother Johnny, but not he himself. Further, Ray asserted that although he did not "personally shoot King," he may have been "partially responsible without knowing it," hinting at a conspiracy. He spent the remainder of his life attempting (unsuccessfully) to withdraw his guilty plea and secure the trial he never had.

On June 10, 1977, shortly after Ray had testified to the House Select Committee on Assassinations that he did not shoot King, he and six other convicts escaped from Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in Petros, Tennessee. They were recaptured on June 13 and returned to prison.[30]

Allegations of conspiracy

Some have speculated that Ray had been used as a "patsy" similar to the way that alleged John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was supposed to have been. Some of the claims used to support this assertion are:
  • Ray's confession was given under pressure, and he had been threatened with death penalty[31][32]
  • Ray was a thief and burglar and had no record of committing violent crimes with a weapon.[33]

Many suspecting a conspiracy in the assassination point out the two separate ballistic tests conducted on the Remington Gamemaster had neither conclusively proved Ray had been the killer nor that it had even been the murder weapon.[34][35] Moreover, witnesses surrounding King at the moment of his death say the shot came from another location, from behind thick shrubbery near the rooming house (which had been inexplicably cut away in the days following the assassination), and not from the rooming house window.[36]

Martin Luther King's tomb, located on the grounds of the King Center

Martin Luther King's & Coretta Scott King's tomb, located on the grounds of the King Center

Recent developments

In 1997, Martin Luther King's son Dexter King met with Ray, and publicly supported Ray's efforts to obtain a retrial.[37]

In 1999, Coretta Scott King, King's widow, along with the rest of King's family, won a wrongful death civil trial against Loyd Jowers and "other unknown co-conspirators". Jowers claimed to have received $100,000 to arrange King's assassination. The jury of six whites and six blacks found Jowers guilty and that "governmental agencies were parties" to the assassination plot.[38] William F. Pepper represented the King family in the trial.[39][40][41]
King biographer David Garrow disagrees with William F. Pepper's claims that the government killed King. He is supported by author Gerald Posner who researched and wrote deeply about the assassination.[42]

In 2000, the Department of Justice completed the investigation about Jowers' claims but did not find evidence to support allegations about conspiracy. The investigation report recommended no further investigation unless some new reliable facts are presented.[43]

On April 6, 2002, the New York Times reported a church minister, Rev. Ronald Denton Wilson, claimed his father, Henry Clay Wilson — not James Earl Ray — assassinated Martin Luther King, Jr. He stated, "It wasn't a racist thing; he thought Martin Luther King was connected with communism, and he wanted to get him out of the way."[44]

In 2004, Jesse Jackson, who was with King at the time of his death, noted:

The fact is there were saboteurs to disrupt the march. [And] within our own organization, we found a very key person who was on the government payroll. So infiltration within, saboteurs from without and the press attacks. …I will never believe that James Earl Ray had the motive, the money and the mobility to have done it himself. Our government was very involved in setting the stage for and I think the escape route for James Earl Ray.[45][46]


Howard Thurman
Civil rights leader, theologian, and educator Howard Thurman was an early influence on King. A classmate of King's father at Morehouse College, Thurman mentored the young King and his friends. Thurman's missionary work had taken him abroad where he had met and conferred with Mahatma Gandhi. When he was a student at Boston University, King often visited Thurman who was dean of Marsh Chapel there.

Bayard Rustin
African American civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, who had studied under Gandhi, counseled King to dedicate himself to the principles of non-violence in 1956, served as King's main adviser and mentor throughout his early activism, and was the main organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. However, Rustin's open homosexuality, support of democratic socialism, and ties to the Communist Party USA caused many white and African-American leaders to demand that King distance himself from Rustin.

Mahatma Gandhi
Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's success with non-violent activism, King visited the Gandhi family in India in 1959, with assistance from the Quaker group the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and the NAACP. The trip to India affected King in a profound way, deepening his understanding of non-violent resistance and his commitment to America’s struggle for civil rights. In a radio address made during his final evening in India, King reflected, “Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity. In a real sense, Mahatma Gandhi embodied in his life certain universal principles that are inherent in the moral structure of the universe, and these principles are as inescapable as the law of gravitation.”[47]

Stance on compensation

King giving a lecture on 26 March 1964

On several occasions Martin Luther King Jr. expressed a view that black Americans, as well as other disadvantaged Americans, should be compensated for historical wrongs. Speaking to Alex Haley in 1965, he said that granting black Americans only equality could not realistically close the economic gap between them and whites. King said that he did not seek a full restitution of wages lost to slavery, which he believed impossible, but proposed a government compensatory program of US$50 billion over ten years to all disadvantaged groups. He posited that "the money spent would be more than amply justified by the benefits that would accrue to the nation through a spectacular decline in school dropouts, family breakups, crime rates, illegitimacy, swollen relief rolls, rioting and other social evils."[48] His 1964 book Why We Can't Wait elaborated this idea further, presenting it as an application of the common law regarding settlement of unpaid labor.[49]

King and the FBI

King had a mutually antagonistic relationship with the FBI, especially its director, J. Edgar Hoover. Under written directives from Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (at Hoover's initiation), the FBI began tracking King and the SCLC in 1961. Its investigations were largely superficial until 1962, when it learned that one of King's most trusted advisers was New York City lawyer Stanley Levison. The FBI found that Levison had been involved with the Communist Party USA. Another key King lieutenant, Hunter Pitts O'Dell, was also linked to the Communist Party by sworn testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). The Bureau placed wiretaps on Levison's and King's home and office phones, and bugged King's rooms in hotels as he traveled across the country. The Bureau also informed Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and President John F. Kennedy, both of whom unsuccessfully tried to persuade King to dissociate himself from Levison. For his part, King adamantly denied having any connections to Communism, stating in a 1965 Playboy interview[48] that "there are as many Communists in this freedom movement as there are Eskimos in Florida"; to which Hoover responded by calling King "the most notorious liar in the country."

The attempt to prove that King was a Communist was in keeping with the feeling of many segregationists that blacks in the South were happy with their lot but had been stirred up by "communists" and "outside agitators." Lawyer-advisor Stanley D. Levison did have ties with the Communist Party in various business dealings, but the FBI refused to believe its own intelligence bureau reports that Levison was no longer associated in that capacity. Movement leaders countered that voter disenfranchisement, lack of education and employment opportunities, discrimination and vigilante violence were the reasons for the strength of the Civil Rights Movement, and that blacks had the intelligence and motivation to organize on their own.

Later, the focus of the Bureau's investigations shifted to attempting to discredit King through revelations regarding his private life. FBI surveillance of King, some of it since made public, attempted to demonstrate that he also engaged in numerous extramarital affairs. However, much of what was recorded was, as quoted by his attorney, speech-writer and close friend Clarence B. Jones, "midnight" talk or just two close friends joking around about women. Further remarks on King's lifestyle were made by several prominent officials, such as President Johnson who notoriously said that King was a “hypocrite preacher”.

In 1989, Ralph Abernathy, a close associate of King's in the civil right movement, stated in his book about the movement that King was a womanizer. The book was titled And The Walls Came Tumbling Down, and was published by Harper & Row. The book was reviewed in The New York Times on October 29, 1989. Allegations of King's sexual conduct were discussed in that review, where Abernathy said that he only wrote the term womanizing, and did not specifically say King had extramarital sex.[50] Also, evidence indicating that King possibly engaged in sexual affairs is detailed by history professor David Garrow in his book Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, published in 1986 by William Morrow & Company. It was not proven whether he agreed to have sex with a woman the night before his assassination.

The FBI distributed reports regarding such affairs to the executive branch, friendly reporters, potential coalition partners and funding sources of the SCLC, and King's family. The Bureau also sent anonymous letters to King threatening to reveal information if he did not cease his civil rights work. One anonymous letter sent to King just before he received the Nobel Peace Prize read, in part, "…The American public, the church organizations that have been helping — Protestants, Catholics and Jews will know you for what you are — an evil beast. So will others who have backed you. You are done. King, there, is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. You have just 34 days in which to do (this exact number has been selected for a specific reason, it has definite practical significance). You are done. There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy fraudulent self is bared to the nation."[51] This statement is often interpreted as inviting King's suicide,[52] though William Sullivan argued that it may have only been intended to "convince King to resign from the SCLC."[53]
Finally, the Bureau's investigation shifted away from King's personal life to intelligence and counterintelligence work on the direction of the SCLC and the Black Power movement.

In January 31, 1977, in the cases of Bernard S. Lee v. Clarence M. Kelley, et al. and Southern Christian Leadership Conference v. Clarence M. Kelley, et al. United States District Judge John Lewis Smith, Jr., ordered all known copies of the recorded audiotapes and written transcripts resulting from the FBI's electronic surveillance of King between 1963 and 1968 to be held in the National Archives and sealed from public access until 2027.

Across from the Lorraine Motel, next to the rooming house in which James Earl Ray was staying, was a vacant fire station. The FBI was assigned to observe King during the appearance he was planning to make on the Lorraine Motel second-floor balcony later that day, and utilized the fire station as a makeshift base. Using papered-over windows with peepholes cut into them, the agents watched over the scene until Martin Luther King was shot.

Immediately following the shooting, all six agents rushed out of the station and were the first people to administer first-aid to King. Their presence nearby has led to speculation that the FBI was involved in the assassination.

Awards and recognition

Martin Luther King Jr.

From the Gallery of 20th century martyrs at Westminster Abbey. From left to right – Mother Elizabeth of Russia, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., Archbishop Oscar Romero, and Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Martyr, Prophet, Civil Rights Leader
Venerated in
Episcopal Church in the United States of America

4 April

Racial Equality, Civil Rights

Saints Portal

Besides winning the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, in 1965 King was awarded the American Liberties Medallion by the American Jewish Committee for his "exceptional advancement of the principles of human liberty." Reverend King said in his acceptance remarks, "Freedom is one thing. You have it all or you are not free."

In 1965 King was awarded the Pacem in Terris Award. It was named after a 1963 encyclical letter by Pope John XXIII that calls upon all people of good will to secure peace among all nations. Pacem in Terris is Latin for 'Peace on Earth.'

In 1966, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America awarded King the Margaret Sanger Award for "his courageous resistance to bigotry and his lifelong dedication to the advancement of social justice and human dignity."[54]

King was posthumously awarded The Marcus Garvey Prize for Human Rights by the Jamaican Government in 1968.

In 1971, King was posthumously awarded the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Recording for his Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam.

In 1977, the Presidential Medal of Freedom was awarded posthumously to King by Jimmy Carter.[55]

King is the second most admired person in the 20th century, according to a Gallup poll.

In 2000, King was voted 6th in the Person of the Century poll by TIME.[56]

King was elected the third Greatest American of all time by the American public in a contest conducted by the Discovery Channel and AOL.

As of 2006, more than 730 cities in the United States had streets named after King. King County, Washington rededicated its name in his honor in 1986, and changed its logo to an image of his face in 2007. The city government center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is the only city hall in the United States to be named in honor of King.

Honorary degrees

Martin Luther King was awarded 20 honorary degrees from various colleges and universities in the United States and several foreign countries. They include:


Main article: Martin Luther King, Jr. authorship issues

In the 1980s, questions were raised regarding the authorship of King's dissertation, other papers, and his speeches. Concerns about his doctoral dissertation at Boston University led to a formal inquiry by university officials, which concluded that approximately a third of it had been plagiarized.[57] However, Boston University decided not to revoke his doctorate, stating that although King acted improperly, his dissertation still "makes an intelligent contribution to scholarship". (Radin, 1991) Theodore Pappas points out in his book Plagiarism and the Culture War, that King took a class on scholarly standards and plagiarism at Boston University.

Books by or about Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Stride toward freedom; the Montgomery story (1958)
  • The Measure of a Man (1959)
  • Strength to Love (1963)
  • Why We Can't Wait (1964)
  • Where do we go from here: Chaos or community? (1967)
  • The Trumpet of Conscience (1968)
  • A Testament of Hope : The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. (1986)
  • Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954–63 by Taylor Branch (1988)
  • Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference by David Garrow (1989)
  • Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963–65 by Taylor Branch (1998)
  • The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King Jr. and Clayborne Carson (1998)
  • Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Laws that Changed America by Nick Kotz (2005)
  • At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965–68 by Taylor Branch (2006)
  • King Remembered by Flip Schulke and Penelope McPhee Forerword by Jesse Jackson(1986)
Wife and children
Spouse: Coretta Scott King


A mural in Kansas City, Missouri commemorating King's activism

King is one of the most widely revered figures in American history. Even posthumous accusations of marital infidelity and academic plagiarism have not seriously damaged his public reputation but merely reinforced the image of a very human hero and leader. It is true that King's movement faltered in the latter stages, after the great legislative victories were won by 1965 (The Voting Rights Act, and the Civil Rights Act). Sharp attacks by more militant blacks, and even such prominent critics as Muslim leader Malcolm X, have not diminished his stature.
Criticism did not consist of mere blind attacks. Stokely Carmichael was a separatist and disagreed with King's plea for racial integration because he considered it an insult to a uniquely African-American culture. Omali Yeshitela urged Africans to remember the history of violent European colonization and how power was not secured by Europeans through integration, but by violence and force.[58] To then attempt to integrate with the colonizers' culture further insulted the original African cultures. Even the notion of decolonization was problematic for Frantz Fanon, an influential figure for black liberation movements. In Decolonizing, National Culture, and the Negro Intellectual (1961), he wrote about the violent foundation on which colonizers claimed their names against the exploited and the obstacles in making peace under such circumstances:

Decolonization is the meeting of two forces, opposed to each other by their very nature, which in fact owe their originality to the sort of substantification which results from and is nourished by the situation in the colonies. Their first encounter was marked by violence and their existence together — that is to say the exploitation of the native by the settler — was carried on by dint of a great array of bayonets and cannons… The naked truth of decolonization evokes for us the searing bullets and blood-stained knives which emanate from it. For if the last shall be first, this will only come to pass after a murderous and decisive struggle between the two protagonists. That affirmed intention to place the last at the head of things, and to make them climb at a pace (too quickly, some say) the well-known steps which characterize an organized society, can only triumph if we use all means to turn the scale, including, of course, that of violence.

On the international scene, King's legacy included influences on the Black Consciousness Movement and Civil Rights Movement in South Africa. King's work was cited by and served as an inspiration for Albert Lutuli, another black Nobel Peace prize winner who fought for racial justice in that country.

A statue of King located within Ingram Park, Birmingham, Alabama

King's wife, Coretta Scott King, followed her husband's footsteps and was active in matters of social justice and civil rights until her death in 2006. The same year that Martin Luther King was assassinated, Mrs. King established the King Center[59] in Atlanta, Georgia, dedicated to preserving his legacy and the work of championing nonviolent conflict resolution and tolerance worldwide. His son, Dexter King, currently serves as the center's president and CEO. Daughter Yolanda King is a motivational speaker, author and founder of Higher Ground Productions, an organization specializing in diversity training.

King's name and legacy have often been invoked since his death as people have debated his likely position on various modern political issues. For example, there is some debate even within the King family as to where he would have stood on gay rights issues. King's widow Coretta said publicly that she believed her husband would have supported gay rights. His daughter Bernice believed he would have been opposed to them.[60] The King Center includes homophobia, along with several other related types of discrimination, in its list of "The Triple Evils" that should be opposed.[61]

The day following King's assassination, school teacher Jane Elliott conducted her first "Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes" exercise with her class of elementary school students in Riceville, Iowa. Her purpose was to help them understand King's death as it related to racial discrimination, something they little understood from having lived in a predominately white community.

George H. W. Bush signs Martin Luther King Day Proclamation

In 1980, King's boyhood home in Atlanta and several other nearby buildings were declared the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. At the White House Rose Garden on November 2, 1983, U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor King. Observed for the first time on January 20, 1986, it is called Martin Luther King Day. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, near the time of King's birthday. In January 17, 2000, for the first time, Martin Luther King Day was officially observed in all 50 U.S. states.[62]

In 1998, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity was authorized by the United States Congress to establish a foundation to manage fund raising and design of a Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial.[63] King was a prominent member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African Americans. King was the first African American honored with his own memorial in the National Mall area and the second non-President to be commemorated in such a way. The sculptor chosen was Lei Yixin. [64] The King Memorial will be administered by the National Park Service.

In spring of 2006, a stage play about King, Passages of Martin Luther King, was produced in Beijing, China with King portrayed by Chinese actor, Cao Li. The play was written by a Stanford Univerity professor, Clayborne Carson.[65][66]

King is one of ten 20th-century martyrs from across the world who are depicted in statues above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey, London. He is commemorated on April 4 in the Calendar of saints of the Episcopal Church as a Civil Rights Leader, and on January 15 in the Calendar of Saints of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as a renewer of society and martyr.


^ Top 100 American Speeches by Rank Order. American Rhetoric (2006). Retrieved on 2006-12-23.
^ "Martin Luther, Jr King Biography (1929–68)",,, January 1965. Retrieved on 2008-01-21
^ The King Center: Biography. The King Center (2006). Retrieved on 2006-12-23.
^ Scott-King, Correta, My life with Martin Luther King Jr. (New York, 1969) pp.124–5
^ The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Morehouse College
^ Haley, Alex. "Martin Luther King", The Playboy Interview, Playboy, January 1965. Retrieved on 2006-09-17
^ Ross, Samuel (2006). March on Washington. Features. Infoplease. Retrieved on 2006-09-17.
^ King, Martin Luther (April 4, 1967). Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence. Speech. Hartford Web Publishing. Retrieved on 2006-09-17.
^ Michael Lind, Vietnam: The Necessary War, 1999 p. 182.
^ Guenter Lewey, America in Vietnam, 1978 pp. 444–5.
^ Frogmore, South Carolina, November 14, 1966. Speech in front of his staff
^ Coretta Scott King (ed.). Martin Luther King, Jr., Companion, p. 39. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.
^ Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence American Rhetoric: Martin Luther King, Jr.
^ Patterson, James T.. "An epic comes to a close", Chicago Sun-Times, January 29, 2006, pp. B12. Retrieved on 2006-12-23
^ Garrow, op.cit. p. 214
^ 1,300 Members Participate in Memphis Garbage Strike. AFSCME (February , 1968). Retrieved on 2006-12-23.
^ Memphis Strikers Stand Firm. AFSCME (March , 1968). Retrieved on 2006-12-23.
^ Rugaber, Walter. "A Negro is Killed in Memphis", The New York Times, March 29, 1968. Retrieved on 2006-12-23
^ The Worst Week of 1968 | Newsweek The Boomer Files |
^ "I've Been to the Mountaintop"
^ United States Department of Justice Investigation of Recent Allegations Regarding the Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr – VII. King V. Jowers Conspiracy Allegations (HTML). United States Department of Justice (June 2000). Retrieved on 2007-07-21.
^ Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. (HTML). Christian History Institute (March, 2007.). Retrieved on 2007-07-21.
^ 40 years after King's death, Jackson hails first steps into promised land (HTML). Guardian (April 3, 2008). Retrieved on 2008-04-03.
^ Branch, Taylor (2006). At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68 (America in the King Years). Simon & Schuster, page 766. ISBN 0684857138
^ Lucas, Dean (February 11, 2007). Famous Pictures Magazine – Martin Luther King Jr Killed (HTML). Famous Pictures Magazine. Retrieved on 2007-07-21.
^ "1968: Martin Luther King shot dead", On this Day, BBC, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-09-17
^ American Experience | Citizen King | Transcript | PBS
^ AFSCME Wins in Memphis. AFSCME (April , 1968). Retrieved on 2006-12-23.
^ 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers' Strike Chronology. AFSCME (1968). Retrieved on 2006-12-23.
^ 1970s. History of Knoxville Office. FBI (2006). Retrieved on 2006-09-17.
^ James Earl Ray Profile. (2006). Retrieved on 2006-12-23.
^ The Martin Luther King Assassination. the Real History Archives (2006). Retrieved on 2006-12-23.
^ "From small-time criminal to notorious assassin", US news, CNN, 1998. Retrieved on 2006-09-17
^ "James Earl Ray Dead At 70", CBS, April 23, 1998. Retrieved on 2006-12-23
^ "Questions left hanging by James Earl Ray's death", BBC, April 23, 1998. Retrieved on 2006-12-23
^ Martin Luther King – Sniper in the Shrubbery?. (2006). Retrieved on 2006-12-23.
^ "James Earl Ray, convicted King assassin, dies", US news, CNN, April 23, 1998. Retrieved on 2006-09-17
^ Trial Transcript Volume XIV. verdict. The King Center (2006). Retrieved on 2007-03-24.
^ Text of the King family's suit against Loyd Jowers and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "unknown" conspirators. Court TV (1999). Retrieved on 2006-09-17.
^ Pepper, Bill (April 7, 2002). William F. Pepper on the MLK Conspiracy Trial. Rat Haus Reality Press. Retrieved on 2006-09-17.
^ Trial Information. Complete Transcript of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Assassination Conspiracy Trial. The King Center (2006). Retrieved on 2006-09-17.
^ Ayton, Mel (February 28, 2005). Book review A Racial Crime: The Assassination of MLK. History News Network. Retrieved on 2006-09-18.
^ USDOJ Investigation of Recent Allegations Regarding the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.. Overview. USDOJ (June 2000). Retrieved on 2006-09-18.
^ Canedy, Dana. "My father killed King, says pastor, 34 years on", The Sydney Morning Herald, April 6, 2002. Retrieved on 2006-09-18
^ Goodman, Amy; Juan Gonzalez. "Jesse Jackson On "Mad Dean Disease," the 2000 Elections and Martin Luther King", Democracy Now!, January 15, 2004. Retrieved on 2006-09-18
^ According to biographer Taylor Branch, King's friend and colleague, James Bevel, put it more bluntly: "[T]here is no way a ten-cent white boy could develop a plan to kill a million-dollar black man." At Canaan's Edge, Simon & Schuster (2006), Hardcover, ISBN 978-0-684-85712-1, p. 770.
^ The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute – King Encyclopedia
^ a b Haley, Alex. "Martin Luther King", The Playboy Interview, Playboy, January 1965. Retrieved on 2006-09-17
^ King (2000). Why We Can't Wait. Signet Classics. ISBN 0-451-52753-4
^ And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, by Rev. Ralph David Abernathy
^ MLK Suicide letter. (2006). Retrieved on 2006-09-18.
^ Jalon, Allan M.. "A Break-In to End All Break-Ins", Los Angeles Times, March 8, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-09-18
^ Church, Frank (April 23, 1976). Church Committee Book III. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Case Study. Church Committee. Retrieved on 2006-09-18.
^ The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. upon accepting The Planned Parenthood Federation Of America Margaret Sanger Award. PPFA (2006). Retrieved on 2006-09-18.
^ Carter Center. Carter Center (2006). Retrieved on 2006-12-23.
^ "The Person of the Century Poll Results", Time magazine, January 19, 2000,. Retrieved on 2006-12-23
^ Martin Luther King. Snopes. Retrieved on 2007-01-15.
^ Abbreviated Report from the International Tribunal on Reparations for Black People in the U.S. – commentary from the African People's Socialist Party in the early 1980s
^ The King Center. The King Center (2006). Retrieved on 2006-12-23.
^ Williams, Brandt. "What would Martin Luther King do?", Minnesota Public Radio, January 16, 2005. Retrieved on 2006-12-23
^ The Triple Evils. The King Center (2006). Retrieved on 2006-12-23.
^ "N.H. becomes last state to honor King with a holiday", The Florida Times Union, June 8, 1999, p. A-4. 
^ Our Founding Jewels Alpha Phi Alpha
^ "Choice of sculptor for Martin Luther King Jr. monument draws flak", Associated Press, 2007-08-21. Retrieved on 2007-08-21. "The selection of a Chinese sculptor to carve a three-story monument to Martin Luther King Jr. on the National Mall is raising questions about what part of his legacy should be celebrated. King promoted peace and understanding among all people." 
^ The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute
^ NPR: Martin Luther King's Story Plays on Beijing Stage

    • Abernathy, Ralph. And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: An Autobiography. New York: Harper & Row, 1989. ISBN 0-06-016192-2
    • Ayton, Mel. A Racial Crime: James Earl Ray And The Murder Of Martin Luther King Jr. Las Vegas: Archebooks Publishing, 2005. ISBN 1-59507-075-3
    • Beito, David, and Beito, Linda Royster. "T.R.M. Howard: Pragmatism over Strict Integrationist Ideology in the Mississippi Delta, 1942–1954" in Glenn Feldman, ed. Before Brown: Civil Rights and White Backlash in the Modern South. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2004, 68–95. ISBN 0-8173-5134-5
    • Branch, Taylor. At Canaan's Edge: America In the King Years, 1965–1968. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006. ISBN 0-684-85712-X
    • Branch, Taylor. Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954–1963. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988. ISBN 0-671-46097-8
    • Branch, Taylor. Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963–1965. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998. ISBN 0-684-80819-6
    • Chernus, Ira. American Nonviolence: The History of an Idea, chapter 11. ISBN 1-57075-547-7
    • Garrow, David J. The FBI and Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: Penguin Books, 1981. ISBN 0-14-006486-9
    • Jackson, Thomas F., From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0-8122-3969-0
    • King, Coretta Scott. My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1969.
    • Kirk, John A., Martin Luther King, Jr. London: Pearson Longman, 2005. ISBN 0-582-41431-8
    • Lindgren, Carl Edwin. "Tour Resurrects Shantytown Art". Southern Exposure, Vol. XX, No. 1 (Spring, 1992): 7. Information relating to Resurrection City and Martin Luther King.
    • Verhagen, Katherine. "Maritime King: African-American Rhetoric's Influence upon Africville". Wadabagei 11 (2005): 34–45.

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    Presidents of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

    Martin Luther King, Jr. (1957) · Ralph Abernathy (1968) · Joseph Lowery (1977) · Martin Luther King III (1997) · Fred Shuttlesworth (2004) · Charles Kenzie Steele, Jr. (2004)

    Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Speeches: How Long, Not LongI Have a DreamI've Been to the Mountaintop
    Writings: Letter from Birmingham JailWhat is Man?
    Protests: 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott • 1960 Nashville sit-ins • 1961 Albany Movement • 1963 Birmingham campaign • 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom • 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches • 1965-67 Chicago Freedom Movement • 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike • 1968 Poor People's Campaign

    Family: Martin Luther King, Sr. (father) • Alberta Williams King (mother) • Christine King Farris (sister) • Alfred Daniel Williams King (brother) • Coretta Scott King (wife) • Yolanda King (daughter) • Martin Luther King III (son) • Dexter Scott King (son) • Bernice King (daughter) • Alveda King (niece)
    Others: Benjamin Mays (mentor) • Bayard Rustin (advisor) • Ralph Abernathy (colleague)

    AssassinationJames Earl RayWilliam F. PepperLoyd Jowers

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    Albany Movement · Birmingham campaign · Black Power · Brown v. Board of Education · Civil Rights Act of 1964 · Civil Rights Act of 1968 · Freedom Riders · Freedom Summer · Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections · Little Rock Nine · March on Washington · Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party · Montgomery Bus Boycott · Poor People's Campaign · Selma to Montgomery marches · Twenty-fourth Amendment · Voting Rights Act of 1965


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      RE: Martin Luther King, Jr. [1929-1968] 06.04.2008 23:44:36 (permalink)
      Martin Luther King, Jr.

      I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.


      Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

      But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

      In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

      It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

      It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

      But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
      We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

      As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

      I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

      Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

      I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

      I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

      I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

      I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

      I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

      I have a dream today.

      I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

      I have a dream today.

      I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

      This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

      This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

      And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

      Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

      Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

      But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

      Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

      Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

      And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

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