"An Autobiography of Religious Development."
"Pilgrimage to Nonviolence."
"The Social Organization of Nonviolence"
"Acceptance Address for the Nobel Peace Prize."
"Nobel Peace Prize Lecture"KING
I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problems, it merely creates new and more complicated ones. Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding. It seeks to annihilate rather than convert. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. It was used in a magnificent way by Mohandas K. Gandhi to challenge the might of the British empire and free his people from the political domination and economic exploitation inflicted upon them for centuries. He struggled only with the weapon of truth, soul force. In the past ten years, unarmed gallant men and women of the United States have given living testimony to the moral power and efficacy of nonviolence. By the thousands, relentless young people, black and white, have temporarily left the ivory towers of learning to storm the barricades of bias. One day all of America will be proud of their achievements. I am still convinced that nonviolence is both the most practically sound and morally excellent way to grapple with the age-old problem of racial injustice.
A second evil which plagues the modern world is that of poverty. Almost two-thirds of the peoples of the world go to bed hungry at night. They are undernourished, ill-housed and shabbily clad. So it is obvious that if man is to redeem his spiritual and moral lag, he must go all-out to bridge the social and economic gulf between the haves and the have-nots of the world. Poverty is one of the most urgent items on the agenda of modern life. There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we have the resources to get rid of it. Just as nonviolence exposed the ugliness of racial injustice, so must the infection and sickness of poverty be exposed and healed, not only its symptoms but its basic causes. The rich nations must use their vast resources of wealth to develop the undeveloped, school the unschooled, and feed the unfed. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation; no individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for the least of these. In the final analysis, the rich must not ignore the poor, because both rich and poor are tied together in a single garment of destinyfor life is interrelated and all men are interdependent. The agony of the poor diminishes the rich, and the salvation of the poor enlarges the rich.
A third great evil confronting our world is that of war. Recent events have vividly reminded us that nations are not reducing, but rather increasing their arsenals of weapons of mass destruction. The proliferation of nuclear weapons has not been halted. The fact that most of the time human beings put the risk of the nuclear war out of their minds because it is too painful and therefore not acceptable does not alter the risk of such a war. So man's proneness to engage in war is still a fact, but wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is obsolete. No nation can claim victory in war. A so-called limited war will leave little more than a calamitous legacy of human suffering, political turmoil and political disillusionment. A world war, God forbid, would leave only smoldering ashes as a mute testimony to the human race whose folly led inexorably to ultimate death. And so if modern man continues to flirt unhesitatingly with war, he will transform his earthly habitat into an inferno such as even the mind of Dante could not imagine.
Therefore I venture to suggest, to all of you and all who hear and may eventually read these words, that the philosophy and strategy of nonviolence become immediately a subject for study and for serious experimentation in every field of human conflict, by no means excluding the relations between nations. It is, after all, nation states which have produced the weapons which threaten the survival of mankind and which are both genocidal and suicidal in character. It is as imperative and urgent to put an end to war and violence between nations as it is to put an end to racial injustice.
It is not enough to say we must not wage war. It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace. In short, we must shift the arms race into the peace race. Some years ago a novelist died, among his papers was found a list of suggested plots for further stories, the most prominently underscored being this one: A widely separated family inherits a house in which they have to live together. This is a great new problem of mankind. We have inherited a big house, a great world house in which we have to live together, black men and white men, easterners and westerners, gentiles and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Muslims and Hindus. A family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interest, who, because we can never again live without each other, must learn somehow, in this one big world house, to live with each other.
And this is our great challenge. This means that more and more, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. We must now give an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in our individual societies. This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing, an unconditional love for all men. I'm not speaking of some sentimental and weak response which is little more than emotional bosh. I'm speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as a supreme unifying principle of life.
"Journey of Conscience."KING
All my adult life I have deplored violence and war as instruments for achieving solutions to mankind's problems. I am firmly committed to the creative power of nonviolence as the force which is capable of winning lasting and meaningful brotherhood and peace. Despite thiswhether right or wrongin the summer and fall of 1965, I believed that it was essential for all Americans to publicly avoid the debate on why we were waging war in the far-off lands of Vietnam.
Accepting this premise, my public statements, while condemning all militarism, were directed mainly to the mechanics for achieving an immediate cessation of hostilities. I did not march, I did not demonstrate, I did not rally. For a while, knowing that my wife shares my passion for peace, I decided that I would leave it to her to take the stands and make the meetings on the peace issue and leave me to concentrate on civil rights. But as the hopeful days became disappointing months, we watched setbacks in the search for peace and advances in the search for military advantage.
I saw an orderly buildup of evil, an accumulation of inhumanities, each of which alone is sufficient to make men hide in shame. What was woeful, but true, was that my country was only talking peace but was bent on military victory. Inside the glove of peace was the clenched fist of war. I now stood naked with shame and guilt, as indeed every German should have when his government was using its military power to overwhelm other nations. Whether right or wrong, I had for too long allowed myself to be a silent onlooker. At best, I was a loud speaker but a quiet actor, while a charade was being performed.
Often I had castigated those who by silence or inaction condoned and thereby cooperated with the evils of racial injustice. Had I not, again and again, said that the silent onlooker must bear the responsibility for the brutalities committed by the Bull Connors, or by the murderers of the innocent children in a Birmingham church? Had I not committed myself to the principle that looking away from evil is, in effect, a condonation of it? Those who lynch, pull the trigger, point the cattle prod, or open the fire hoses act in the name of the silent. I had to therefore speak out if I was to erase my name from the bombs which fall over North or South Vietnam, from the canisters of napalm. The time had comeindeed it was past duewhen I had to disavow and dissociate myself from those who, in the name of peace, burn, maim, and kill. As I moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heartas I called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnammany persons questioned me about the wisdom of my path: "Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent?" "Peace and civil rights don't mix," they say. And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I nevertheless am greatly saddened that such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment, or my calling. They seem to forget that before I was a civil rights leader, I answered a call, and when God speaks, who can but prophesy. I answered a call which left the spirit of the Lord upon me and anointed me to preach the gospel. And during the early days of my ministry, I read the Apostle Paul saying, "Be ye not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of minds." I decided then that I was going to tell the truth as God revealed it to me. No matter how many people disagreed with me, I decided that I was going to tell the truth.
More than that, I had to go from the pulpits and platforms. I had to return to the streets to mobilize men to assemble and petition, in the spirit of our own revolutionary history, for the immediate end of this bloody, immoral, obscene slaughterfor a cause which cries out for a solution before mankind itself is doomed. I could do no less for the salvation of my soul.
"Beyond Vietnam, Address at Riverside Church"KING
I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together, Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.
There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war.
It became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked, and rightly so, "What about Vietnam?" They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.
The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the
American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find
ourselves attending rallies without end unless there is a significant
and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us
beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.
"Address at SCLC Ministers Leadership Training Program."KING
I read Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto, and many of the revolutionary movements in the world came into being as a result of what Marx talked about. The great tragedy is that Christianity failed to see that it had the revolutionary edge. You don't have to go to Karl Marx to learn how to be a revolutionary. I didn't get my inspiration from Karl Marx; I got it from a man named Jesus, a Galilean saint who said he was anointed to heal the broken-hearted. He was anointed to deal with the problems of the poor. And that is where we get our inspiration.
We have the power to change America and give a kind of new vitality to the religion of Jesus Christ. And we can get those young men and women who've lost faith in the church to see that Jesus was a serious man precisely because he was concerned about their problems. The greatest revolutionary that history has ever known.
[Pause] When I first took my position against the war in Vietnam, almost
every newspaper in the country criticized me. It was a low period in my
life. I could hardly open a newspaper. It wasn't only white people either.
"To Charter Our Course for the Future."KING
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge, moments of great crisis and controversy. And this is where I choose to cast my lot today. There may be others who want to go another way, but when I took up the cross I recognized its meaning. It is not something that you merely put your hands on. It is not something that you wear. The cross is something that you bear and ultimately that you die on. The cross may mean the death of your popularity. It may mean the death of your bridge to the White House. It may mean the death of a foundation grant. It may cut your budget down a little, but take up your cross and just bear it. And that is the way I have decided to go.
"Sermon at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church."KING
If you have never found something so dear and so precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren't fit to live. You may be thirty-eight years old, as I happen to be, and one day some great principle, some great opportunity stands before you and calls upon you to stand up for some great issue, some great cause. And you refused to do it because you want to live longer. You're afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you're afraid that somebody will stab you or shoot at you or bomb your house.
So you refuse to take the stand. Well, you may go on and live until you are ninety, but you are just as dead at thirty-eight as you would be at ninety. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announced of an earlier death of the spirit. You died when you refused to stand up for right.
You died when you refused to stand up for truth.
You died when you refused to stand up for justice. Don't ever think that you're by yourself. Go on to jail if necessary,
but you never go alone.
Take a stand
for that which is right.
And the world may misunderstand you, and criticize you. But you never go alone, for somewhere I read that one with God is a majority.
"I've Been to the Mountaintop."KING
If I were standing at the beginning of time with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, "Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?" Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty and say, "If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the twentieth century, I will be happy."
Now that's a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick; trouble is in the land, confusion all around. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period in a way that men, in some strange way, are responding something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; or Memphis, Tennessee, the cry is always the same: "We want to be free."
And another reason that I'm happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we are going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history. Survival demands that we grapple with them. Men for years now have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it's nonviolence or nonexistence. That is where we are today.
And also in the human rights revolution, if something isn't done, and done in a hurry, to bring the colored peoples of the world out of their long years of poverty, their long years of hurt and neglect, the whole world is doomed.
Now, I'm just happy that God has allowed me to live in this period, to see what is unfolding. And I'm happy that he's allowed me to be in Memphis saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people. We are saying, we are saying that we are God's children. We are masters in our nonviolent movement in disarming police forces; they don't know what to do. I've seen them so often. I remember in Birmingham, Alabama, when we were in that majestic struggle there, we would move out of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church day after day and Bull Connor would tell them to send the dogs forth, and they did come. But we just went before the dogs singing, "Ain't gonna let nobody turn me around." Bull Connor next would say, "Turn the fire hoses on."
Bull Connor didn't know history. He knew a kind of physics that somehow didn't relate to the transphysics that we knew about. And that was the fact that there was a certain kind of fire that no water could put out.
Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge, to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation. And I want to thank God, once more, for allowing me to be here with you.
I don't know what will happen now; we've got some difficult days ahead. But it really 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 lifelongevity has its place. But I'm not concern 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 so 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.
"The Drum Major Instinct"KING
Every now and then I guess we all think realistically about that day when we will be victimized with what is life's final common denominator--that something we call death. We all think about it. And every now and then I think about my own death, and I think about my own funeral. And I don't think of it in a morbid sense. Every now and then I ask myself. "What is it that I would want said?"
I'd like somebody to mention that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. I'd like for somebody to say that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.
I want you to say that day,
That I tried to be right on the war question.
I want you to be able to say that day,
That I did try to feed the hungry.
And I want you to be able to say that day,
That I did try, in my life, to clothe those who were naked.
I want you to say, on that day,
That I did try, in my life, to visit those who were in prison.
I want you to say,
That I tried to love and to serve humanity.
Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice.
Say that I was a drum major for peace.
I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind.
But I just want to leave a committed life behind.
Closing Song Joan Baez
Benediction Rev. Jonathan Staples, Jerusalem Baptist Church
Sources of Texts for "King on War and Peace:
"Pilgrimage to Nonviolence," Christian Century, April 13, 1960, in Clayborne Carson, Tenisha Armstrong, Susan Carson, Adrienne Clay, and Kerry Taylor, eds., The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Volume V: Threshold of a New Decade, January 1959 - December 1960 (Berkeley: University of California Press, forthcoming).
"The Social Organization of Nonviolence," Liberation (October 1959) in Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Volume IV.
"Acceptance Address for the Nobel Peace Prize," December 10, 1964, in Clayborne Carson and Kris Shepard, A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Warner Books, 2001), pp. 105-109.
Nobel Peace Prize Lecture, December 11, 1964, King Papers collection at King Library and Archive, Martin Luther King, Jr., Center, Atlanta.
"Journey of Conscience," unpublished handwritten preliminary draft of "Beyond Vietnam" speech, in Clayborne Carson, ed., The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Warner Books, 1998), pp. 333-336.
"Beyond Vietnam," address at Riverside Church, New York, April 4, 1967, in Carson and Shepard, eds., A Call to Conscience, pp. 139-164.
"To Chart Our Course for the Future," Address at SCLC Ministers Leadership Training Program, Miami, February 23, 1968, recording in King Library and Archive, King Center, Atlanta, in Carson, ed., The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., p. 351, 342, 343.
"To Charter Our Course for the Future," Address to SCLC staff, Frogmore, South Carolina, May 22, 1967, in Carson, ed., The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., p. 342-343.
Sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, November 5, 1967, in Carson, ed., Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., p. 344.
"I've Been to the Mountaintop," address at Bishop Charles J. Mason Temple, Memphis, April 3, 1968, in Carson and Shepard, eds, A Call to Conscience, pp. 207-223.
"The Drum Major Instinct," sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, February 4, 1968, in Carson and Peter Holloran, A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Revered Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Warner Books, 1998), pp. 169-186.