Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a sermon at New York’s Riverside Church 51 years ago on April 4th, 1967. It was called “Beyond Vietnam,” and it set the tone for King’s final year of life, which ended in assassination precisely one year later. In it, King refers to the evil triplets: Racism, Materialism, and Militarism, and how they uphold one another. Several weeks after that first speech at Riverside, he delivered another address about why he opposed the war in Vietnam at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA.
King has been elevated as a great example of nonviolent resistance in the civil rights movement. Textbooks and television ads quote from a select few landmark speeches. There’s a national holiday, and former President Barack Obama unveiled an official monument to King in 2011. But many have noted how sanitized this image of King is, especially given his resistance to the state, economy, and press. In 1963, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover placed King on the FBI’s COINTELPRO list as a radical with supposed communist tendencies. King believed his “Christian prophetic witness” was based in the Old Testament Prophets, who gave voice to the voiceless, defended the defenseless, and most importantly, spoke truth to power “without fear or favour.”
Worldview discusses King and plays extended excerpts from those two speeches in his last year, which made him reviled even within the Black community. We’ll also make connections to the press, military, market economy, and government today with writer Vijay Prashad of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and chief editor of LeftWord Books.
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