The celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is always a very cuddly affair. It’s been turned into a story of victory and of American virtue, which is the furthest thing from King’s own view of his political odyssey in the last year of his life. During that time, King was growing more discouraged and more radicalized. In his last book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community–now, tellingly, out of print (though you can find used copies through Amazon at the link)–King railed against the “racist imperialism” of the Vietnam War and bluntly questioned the faith he had put in moral persuasion and white goodwill:
“Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a mass effort to re-educate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of American believe they have so little to learn…. With each modest advance the white population promptly raises the argument that the Negro has come far enough.”
A week before his death, King remarked to his associate, Hosea Williams, “Truly, America is much, much sicker than I realized when I first began working in 1955.”
Below: King’s last speech, April 3, 1968 in Memphis (two parts; audio only with video montage); below the jump: MLK on Vietnam.
Part I – click below
Part II – Click below
Vietnam speech – click below: