Martin Luther King - Always Worth Listening To
January 21, 2008 11:12 AM   Subscribe

"I have a dream..." Take 17 minutes out of your day and remember. And then maybe take a look at this NY Times slide show of murals depicting Dr. King. Feel free, in fact please do, add appropriate links and suggestions in the comments section.
posted by brookeb (40 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Also from today's NY Times: Radical Love Gets a Holiday by Sarah Vowell.
posted by squalor at 11:21 AM on January 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

Here's a huge landmark mural from King St, Newtown - where I live in Sydney. The story behind the mural is quite fascinating.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:26 AM on January 21, 2008

More here.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:28 AM on January 21, 2008

From his Nobel acceptance speech:
I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.
Unfortunately, the relevance of his word doesn't age. I wish that I had a fraction of his optimism.
posted by octothorpe at 11:32 AM on January 21, 2008

From squalor's link:

"Here’s what Dr. King got out of the Sermon on the Mount. On Nov. 17, 1957, in Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, he concluded the learned discourse that came to be known as the “loving your enemies” sermon this way: “So this morning, as I look into your eyes and into the eyes of all of my brothers in Alabama and all over America and over the world, I say to you: ‘I love you. I would rather die than hate you.’

We need so much more of this.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:39 AM on January 21, 2008

Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam, excerpted from a Sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on April 30, 1967.

MLK Jr.'s legacy has been bowdlerized, let's not forget that above all, he was a man for peace
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 11:43 AM on January 21, 2008

I think Dr. King would be proud of this speech given yesterday at his former church by Barack Obama.
posted by hangingbyathread at 11:45 AM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spent the last few years of his life focused on anti-poverty efforts: The Martin Luther King You Don't See on TV

And in 1967 began calling for an end to the war in Vietnam, and with it, a "true revolution" of American Values: The Beyond Vietnam Speech.
The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality...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. ...

...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...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, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

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 South 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 hand 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 the veins of peoples 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.
posted by Miko at 11:50 AM on January 21, 2008 [6 favorites]

It's blocked at work. Just as well, it's not a socially accepted thing to see a grown man cry for humanity.
posted by sleepy pete at 11:54 AM on January 21, 2008

Let us turn our thoughts today
To Martin Luther King
And recognize that there are ties between us
All men and women
Living on the Earth
Ties of hope and love
Sister and brotherhood
That we are bound together
In our desire to see the world become
A place in which our children
Can grow free and strong
We are bound together
By the task that stands before us
And the road that lies ahead
We are bound and we are bound

Warning: typical YouTube comment lameness
posted by uaudio at 11:56 AM on January 21, 2008

A church down the street has been playing this from their bell tower periodically since the start of a local rally yesterday afternoon. I stepped out onto my front porch to listen to the end. What an amazing orator he was. I've heard it dozens of times and I still get goosebumps.

Also, when I hear this speech I can't help but think of the way the King Estate abused copyright law squabbling over royalties to a piece of history.
posted by sdodd at 11:58 AM on January 21, 2008

Thanks for the post. I can never hear this too many times. Also, I've always wondered about one of the guys standing behind him at the Washington march. As King concludes his speech the face of the guy--behind King's left shoulder, white cap and a big moustache--just bursts into joy. Does anyone know who was on the platform with him? And yes, I know women were deliberately excluded....
posted by etaoin at 12:05 PM on January 21, 2008

The killer line from Beyond Vietnam:

"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."
posted by stammer at 12:10 PM on January 21, 2008

Barack Obama's Speech yesterday
posted by empath at 12:16 PM on January 21, 2008

Simon - Free At Last - Shake your ass to the classic house remix of the MLK speech.
posted by empath at 12:20 PM on January 21, 2008

A great man.

Was he killed by a government afraid of his power and push for radical social change?
posted by caddis at 12:27 PM on January 21, 2008

The only person I can identify on the podium with him is Bayard Rustin who was the organizer of the March, and the instigator of Dr. King's non-violent style. He is shown at the end in the upper left corner.
posted by petrilli at 12:31 PM on January 21, 2008

The only person I can identify on the podium with him is Bayard Rustin who was the organizer of the March, and the instigator of Dr. King's non-violent style. He is shown at the end in the upper left corner.
Yes, thanks, he's to King's right, you mean? Every time I see this clip, I wonder about this guy.
posted by etaoin at 12:35 PM on January 21, 2008

posted by chillmost at 12:37 PM on January 21, 2008

A King, indeed.
posted by aftermarketradio at 12:38 PM on January 21, 2008

I just re-read his Letter from A Birmingham Jail a few days ago. I was also moved to tears.
posted by lalochezia at 12:38 PM on January 21, 2008

Browsing around the various MLK youtubery, that "I've Been To the Mountaintop" speech, delivered the day before he died, is pretty chilling.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:55 PM on January 21, 2008

I cannot hear this speech without crying. He was such a brilliant writer and speaker. He must have been such an inspiring preacher. It's so sad that this speech was given before I was born, and yet, all these years later, while the "whites only" fountains are gone, the lines of demarcation are perhaps even stronger today than they were in the 60's.
posted by dejah420 at 12:59 PM on January 21, 2008

Hey, was that Mitt Romney's dad? I swear I thought I saw him!
posted by Pollomacho at 1:00 PM on January 21, 2008

Thank you Squalor. I wouldn't have caught that op-ed piece if not for this thread. I love Sarah Vowell. I love Martin Luther King Jr. So by proxy I love Sarah Vowell writing about Martin Luther King Jr.

I wish I had a time machine so I could go back in time, stop the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. Y'know why? Cuz then, if I ever had the guts to try and contact Sarah Vowell? She might go out with me. =) She's hot!

I'd be all like, "I saved two of your heroes! How about a date?" But then she'd be all like, "You ruined my book you bastard! Get outta my face!" She couldn't write Assassination Vacation if I go back in time to stop Lincoln's assassination, so she'd never have written the book. That'd just tick her off. Come to think of it, this wouldn't make me a shoe-in. I'm doomed forever to be Vowel-less. It's probably best I never get a time machine.

But maybe if I just stopped MLK's... but then she'd be all like, "you got a time machine! Why don't you save Lincoln too? You bastard!" And I'd be like, "but I don't wanna mess up your book!" And she'd be all like "What you mean mess up my book? You suck!" and she'd slam the door in my face. I just can't win in this scenario.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:01 PM on January 21, 2008

Thanks, Miko, for that quote on the war. I'm afraid reading it now makes me feel more despair than hope.

Bayard Rustin is an inspiration in his own right, and is also well-worth remembering on this day.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 1:04 PM on January 21, 2008

"We must see racism for what it is. It is the myth of the inferior race. It is the notion that one race is superior to another race. It is the creed based not on some empirical expression or judgment, but it is finally an ontological affirmation [...] which says atht the very being of a people is inferior. And the ultimate logic of racism is genocide. Hitler was a sick man, a mixed-up man, one of the great evils of history, but he carried his racism to its logical conclusion, for the minute he concluded that the very being of the Jew was inferior, he ended up killing six million Jews. And if at any point someone says that somebody else is not not fit to live next door to them, not fit to eat at a lunch counter, not fit to vote, not fit to have access to public accommodations or a decent job, then one is saying unconsciously or consciously at that moment that that person does not have the right to exist. The final tragedy of racism is that it assumes that God made a creative error.


I'm concerned about the survival of the world. I love all mankind. I love all the children of the world. To bring another generation up under war and bloodshed will be tragic. So I say that if modern man continues to flirt unhesitatingly with war we can destroy ourselves. But in a day when Sputniks and Explorers and Geminis are dashing through outer space and guided ballistic missiles are carving highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can really win a war. It may have a temporary victory here and there, but no nation can really win a war.

The choice is no longer between violence and non-violence. It is either non-violence or non existence."

- October 1967.
posted by dismas at 1:21 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hey, was that Mitt Romney's dad? I swear I thought I saw him!
posted by Pollomacho at 4:00 PM on January 21 [+] [!]

All snark aside, there IS a guy who pops into the shot for a split second who looks like George Romney.
posted by etaoin at 1:34 PM on January 21, 2008

May I add...
posted by Webbster at 1:37 PM on January 21, 2008

My friend James did a remix of hte "I Have a Dream" speech with some music in the background. He used to have it on his site and for some reason no longer does. Here's a link to my archive of it.
posted by jessamyn at 2:00 PM on January 21, 2008

Thanks, miko. The Poor People's Campaign was as radical as anything MLK ever did, and it's so rarely remembered. He was in Memphis because of the sanitation workers' strike, in which the strikers marched with posters reading I AM A MAN. Since that particular point seemed to be up for debate.

Anyone willing to make a long-term commitment should get the Taylor Branch books on the whole civil rights era. At least get the most recent, At Canaan's Edge, which covers the last three years of King's life. Branch is no literary stylist but he's very good at gathering and organizing masses of information and tracing various narratives.
posted by dogrose at 2:06 PM on January 21, 2008

...maybe if I went back in time and saved Abraham Lincoln and MLK AND JFK AND RFK AND... - just how many political leaders must one save in order to get a date, anyway?
posted by ZachsMind at 2:17 PM on January 21, 2008

A nice sculpture in Atlanta and a story about the other Martin Luther King, Jr. who lives in Atlanta.
posted by Frank Grimes at 3:43 PM on January 21, 2008

Full text, audio, and video for the Mountaintop speech, which also always gives me chills, just as Letters from A Birmingham Jail is still one of the most beautiful texts I've ever read.

He is an icon now, but I think as a country, we often do more talking about him than really thinking about and acting on what he stood for. It hasn't lost any of its relevance.
posted by Tehanu at 4:04 PM on January 21, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dr. King. The inner sleeve of Hotter Than July was where I first learned about the civil rights movement in the US, when I was about five - God knows how my parents explained that one.
posted by jack_mo at 4:31 PM on January 21, 2008

"Studies have proven that television has such an impact on social behavior that it is capable of breaking down stereotypes and changing common social views. One such example comes from a study that was done on a group of minority children who watched Sesame Street. These children had more pride in their cultural background, had more self-confidence, and were much more cooperative with others after viewing the program. Coinciding with this study was a study done on white American children who were found to be more accepting of racial and cultural difference after viewing Sesame Street for two years." (source)

There you go, poppo. A Muppet link is relevant even though you didn't mean it to be. Much of Jim Henson's work was rather explicitly about teaching kids (and adults) how to live in the world Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed about.
posted by Tehanu at 4:37 PM on January 21, 2008

MLK Jr.'s legacy has been bowdlerized, let's not forget that above all, he was a man for peace

The most frustrating bowdlerizing of King to me, besides the eliding of his life between Selma and Memphis, is how the "Rev. Dr." part of his life is so easily forgotten, and how he'd go back to the Bible and the language of the church to frame up his speeches, just as the Black church had framed the Bible around their own slavery narrative.

People forget that he started the Letter From A Birmingham Jail with a comparison to Paul's imprisonment. People forget that the "Mountaintop" speech is a riff on Moses not being allowed into Judea (which fits right in with the assassination narrative -- only if anything, we've been slouching away from the "Dream" ever since).

And people forget that the words that end I have a dream are credited by King to "that old Negro spiritual."

Thing is, King would be considered part of the "Religious Left" nowadays. Theologically, he shares little with the Dobsons and Falwells of the world, other than a belief in the same God. The rise of the Religious Right has scared the Left away from the church and made them shudder at the language of the church. Meanwhile, that lack of "theological rightness," combined with the overt and subvert racism of the Southern Christian churches that formed the backbone of the Religious Right, has relegated King's words and speeches to nothing more than some nice things to say this time of year, surrounded by whispered stories of plagiarism, marital infidelity, and Communist sympathies.

And so, when Barack Obama stood up in Ebenezer yesterday and gave what I think might be one of Those Speeches, the ones that we remember because they demonstrate the emotional power of the spoken word, a number of people slam him for daring to speak in That Language in a CHURCH and it's all Another Step Towards Theocracy and He Is Just Pandering. No understanding of the history of the African-American Church. No understanding of how Abernathy and King and Young and Jackson all had M.Div degrees, or how the Black Muslims were in a sense a syncretism of the Black Church and Islam. No, it's just Obama being just another religionist.

And yet, there's this weird irony of Obama apparently doing best among polar opposites in terms of religion -- people who consider themselve devout enough to go to church every week, and people who never darken the door of any church.

I'm not comparing Obama in any way to King. I'm not arguing for more religion. But this lack of understanding about the religious overtones of the African-American experience and how it's more story than belief is going to put the Democrats in a world of hurt.

To understand the narrative of the Civil Rights movement and all that followed, you have to understand the language of the Bible and the nature of what the church has meant to the African-American community. To completely disregard it in the name of secularism or antipathy towards religion is as dangerous as disregarding MLK's later years as an emergent socialist and anti-war, anti-poverty activist.
posted by dw at 6:35 PM on January 21, 2008 [11 favorites]

The most frustrating bowdlerizing of King to me, besides the eliding of his life between Selma and Memphis, is how the "Rev. Dr." part of his life is so easily forgotten

comment of the week.

Religion has been a tool of social change, and of social oppression. Dr. King was a near Jesus figure in his use of religion as an agent of social change and betterment. He truly was close to, if not the most, remarkable person of his century, and there were many contenders. Had he lived, this would have likely been a radically different country.
posted by caddis at 8:31 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks, brookeb, for the reminder.

and thanks everyone else for interesting links to check out more.
posted by librarylis at 9:46 PM on January 21, 2008

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