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- The Power of Peace: Thoreau, Gandhi, and King
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
- Transcript of Dr. Martin Luther King's speech at SMU on March 17, 1966
- Civil disobedience
Martin Luther King Jr. In , he received a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. King pushed America to fulfill its promise of equal rights for all. We honor his life and his legacy by recommitting ourselves to keeping his dream alive.
The Power of Peace: Thoreau, Gandhi, and King
To the distinguished president of Southern Methodist University, Dr. Tate, members of the faculty and members of the student body, ladies and gentlemen. I need not pause to say how very delighted and honored I am to be on the campus of this great institution of learning and to be a part of your lecture series.
And I certainly want to express my personal appreciation to Mr. Moore and Mr. Cox and all of you for extending the invitation. It is always a very rich and rewarding experience when I can take a brief break from the day-to-day demands of our struggle for freedom and human dignity and discuss the issues involved in that struggle with college and university students and concerned people of goodwill all over the country and all over the world.
And so it is a delightful pleasure to be here with you today. I come with a deep appreciation for the rich and noble heritage of this marvelous institution of learning.
I would like to have you think with me this afternoon on the subject of the future of integration. I guess probably more than any other question, the one that I get over and over again as I journey around our nation is the question whether we are making any real progress in race relations.
It is a poignant and desperate question on the lips of thousands and millions of people all over this nation. And I guess the only answer that I can give to that question is what I consider a realistic one. It avoids the extremes of both a deadening pessimism and a superficial optimism. I would say that we have come a long, long way in our struggle to make justice a reality for all men, but we have a long, long way to go before the problem is solved. And it is this realistic position that I would like to use as the basis for our thinking together this afternoon as we think of the future of integration and as we think of progress in race relations.
We have come a long, long way but we still have a long, long way to go. Now let us notice first that we have come a long, long way and in order to illustrate this a bit of history is necessary. You will remember that it was in the year that the first Negro slaves landed on the shores of this nation. They were brought here from the soils of Africa. Unlike the Pilgrim Fathers, who landed at Plymouth a year later, they were brought here against their will.
Throughout slavery, the Negro was treated in a very inhuman fashion. He was a thing to be used rather than a person to be respected. He was merely a depersonalized cog in a vast plantation machine.
The famous Dred Scott decision of well-illustrated the status of the Negro during slavery. For in this decision, the Supreme Court of our nation said in substance that the Negro is not a citizen of the United States. He is merely property subject to the dictates of his owner. It went on to say that the Negro has no rights that the white man is bound to respect.
With the growth of slavery, it became necessary to give some justification for it. It seems to be a fact of life that men cannot continue to do wrong without eventually reaching out for some thin rationalization to cloth an obvious wrong in the beautiful garments of righteousness. This is exactly what happened during the days of slavery.
Even religion was used, or I should say misused, to crystalize the patterns of the status quo and to justify the system of slavery. Then one brother had probably read the logic of the great philosopher Aristotle. You know Aristotle did a great deal to bring into being what we now know as formal logic in philosophy and formal logic has a big word known as syllogism.
Syllogism has a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion. So this brother decided to put his argument of the inferiority of the Negro in the framework of an Aristotelian syllogism. He came out with his major premise: All men are created in the image of God. Then came his minor premise: God, as everybody knows, is not a Negro. Therefore, the Negro is not a man. This was the kind of reasoning that prevailed.
Living with the system of slavery and then later rigid standards of segregation, many Negroes lost faith in themselves. Many came to feel that perhaps they were less than human. Nagging clouds of inferiority actually formed in their mental sky.
Then something happened to the Negro. Circumstances made it possible and necessary for him to travel more: The coming of the automobile, the upheavals of two world wars, the Great Depression. And so his rural plantation background gradually gave way to urban industrial life. Even his cultural life was gradually rising through the steady decline of crippling illiteracy.
All of these forces conjoined to cause the Negro to take a new look at himself. Negro masses all over began to re-evaluate themselves. The Negro came to feel that he was somebody. His religion revealed to him that God loves all of his children and that all men are made in his image and that the basic thing about a man is not his specificity but his fundamentalness, not the texture of his hair or the color of his skin but his eternal dignity and worth.
Skin may differ but affection dwells in black and white the same. Were I so tall as to reach from pole to pole or grasp the ocean with a span, I must be measured by my soul.
The mind is the standard of the man. With the new sense of dignity, this sense of self-respect, a new Negro came into being with a new determination, to struggle, to suffer and to sacrifice in order to be free. And so in a real sense, we have come a long, long way. Since , the Negro has come a long, long way in re-evaluating his own intrinsic worth. But not only that.
If we are to be true to the facts, we must point out that the whole nation has made significant strides in extending the frontiers of democracy and civil rights. Fifty years ago, or even 25 years ago, a year hardly passed when numerous Negroes were not brutally lynched in the South by vicious mobs. At the turn of the century, there were very few Negroes registered to vote in the South. Many many patterns came into being, many conniving methods to keep the Negro from being a registered voter but other forces were at work so that by the number of registered Negro voters in the South had leaped to , By , that number had leaped to a little better than 1,, By , it had gone to 2 million.
This reveals that we have made strides. We all know the history of legal segregation. But we all know what happened as a result of the Plessy doctrine. There was always a strict enforcement of the separate without the slightest intention to abide by the equal.
The Negro ended up being plunged into the abbess of exploitation, where he experienced the bleakness of nagging injustice. Then something else happened in After examining the legal body of segregation, the Supreme Court pronounced it constitutionally dead on May 17 of that year.
It said in substance the old Plessy doctrine must go, separate facilities are inheritantly unequal, that to segregate a child on the basis of his race is to deny that child equal protection of the law.
And on the heels of that speech to the nation, President Kennedy submitted to Congress the most comprehensive civil rights package ever presented by any president of our nation. Congress debated the issue for several months; finally that bill was passed, signed by President Johnson on July 2, The Civil Rights Bill is now the law of the land, and I am happy to say as a native Southerner, as one who loves the South and lives in the South that by and large communities have complied with this bill, particularly the public accommodations section of it, with amazing good sense.
There are still pockets of resistance but fortunately major communities have complied. This reveals to us that changes are taking place. We have moved through the wilderness of legal segregation and now we stand on the borderland of integration and I am convinced the system of segregation is on its deathbed today and the only thing uncertain about it is how costly the diehards and the extreme segregationists will make the funeral.
Now this would be a wonderful place for me to end my speech this afternoon. First it would mean making a relatively short speech and that would be a magnificent accomplishment for a Baptist preacher. It would be a marvelous thing if speakers all over our nation could talk about this problem in terms of a problem that once existed but that no longer has existence. But see if I stop now I will merely be stating fact and not telling the truth.
You see a fact is merely the absence of contradiction but the truth is the presence of coherence. And in order to tell the truth, I must give the other side and if I stop at this point, I may leave you the victims of a dangerous optimism if I stop now. I may leave you the victims of an illusion wrapped in superficiality.
So, in order to tell the truth, it is necessary to move on and say not only have we come a long, long way, we still have a long, long way to go before the problem of racial injustice is solved in our country. Now I need not dwell on this point. We need only turn on our televisions and open our newspapers and look around our community. We see that the problem is still with us.
I mentioned the fact that lynchings have about ceased but we must recognize that civil rights workers are still being brutally murdered. And in some of our states today the murder of Negro and civil rights workers is still a favorite pastime. In the last four or five years, some 26 Negro and white civil rights workers have been brutally murdered in the state of Alabama alone.
If we will check the list, we will discover that in most cases nobody has been convicted. People are walking scot-free in the streets of our communities who have murdered persons who were simply seeking to gain their basic rights as citizens. The same thing has happened, and the numbers are probably larger, in the state of Mississippi.
And so these things continue to exist. We mount our movements trying to get a little justice. We still see homes being bombed. We still see churches being burned down.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle. Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham.
Though the two men never got a chance to meet King was 19 when Gandhi was assassinated , King learned about Gandhi through his writing and a trip to India in He affirmed that it is possible to resist evil without resorting to violence and to oppose evil itself without opposing the people committing evil. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University. In the late s, future congressman John Lewis studied Gandhi in nonviolence workshops led by activist James Lawson. These workshops prepared Lewis for the sit-ins he and other students would later hold at lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee. Martin Luther King Jr.
Love, Law, and Civil Disobedience. Martin Luther King Jr. Born in Atlanta and educated at Morehouse College, Crozer Theological Seminary (near.
Transcript of Dr. Martin Luther King's speech at SMU on March 17, 1966
If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms. I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against "outsiders coming in. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights.
The issue of active protests against the injustice of the law aimed at bringing about a change in that conduct is of great relevance for members of the world society. There is no escape from admitting the fact that even the most perfect political system may and will from time to time produce unjust laws. What is as yet unclear is the principles of justification in favour of a civil disobedient who commits an open breach of that laws.
In the middle of the nineteenth century, a frenzy of support for the Mexican-American War swept across the United States. But a small minority were unhappy. They saw the war as an act of violent aggression against a weak, neighboring country. Who were the people in this minority? Mostly ministers, scholars, abolitionists, and a few people in the government, such as Abraham Lincoln. He was not the president yet, but a freshman congressman from Illinois. He called the war immoral, a serious threat to our new nation's values of freedom and liberty.