Everyone should study the last speeches of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and reflect on the evolution of his message—from one of an integrationist “Dreamer” in 1955, to one of a true wide-awake revolutionary in 1968 when he was murdered.
The world came to know Dr. King during the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott in which he proclaimed his earnest belief that
“We want to love our enemies — be good to them. This is what we must live by, we must meet hate with love. We must love our white brothers no matter what they do to us.”
But by the mid-1960s, it is clear that Dr. King began to consider that The Teachings of The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad had profound relevance to the struggle for Black freedom in America. Bro. Dr. King and his wife Coretta met with The Messenger of Allah at his Chicago home on 24 February, 1966
Privately, Dr. King indicated a true shift in his belief that the pursuit of “integration” through “non-violent” civil rights struggle would be the answer to the righteous demands of his oppressed people. In the last days of his life, King confided in his friend Harry Belafonte:
“You know, we fought long and hard for integration…But I tell you, Harry, I’ve come on a realization that really deeply troubles me. I’ve come to the realization that I think we may be integrating into a burning house.”
In 1967, Dr. King, asked, “Why does white America delude itself, and how does it rationalize the evil it retains?” He said white people’s belief in the fairness of America “is a fantasy of self-deception and comfortable vanity.”
His indictment of white America grew harsher and unsparing:
“White Americans left the Negro on the ground and in devastating numbers walked off with the aggressor. It appeared that the white segregationist and the ordinary white citizen had more in common with one another than either had with the Negro.”
Incredibly, he even conceded, “there are points at which I see the necessity for temporary separation as a temporary way-station to a truly integrated society.”
By 1968, Dr. King was unequivocal about the country and the war to which white American and many negro leaders were irrevocably faithful:
“And I am sad to say that the nation in which we live is the supreme culprit. God didn’t call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war, as the war in Vietnam. And we are criminals in that war. We have committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I’m going to continue to say it.”
In his very last speech in Memphis in the midst of the striking sanitation workers on April 3, 1968, Dr. King was speaking of BLACK RETALIATION against the forces of wickedness using “the power of economic withdrawal.” “Up to now,” he taught,“only the garbage men have been feeling pain; now we must kind of redistribute the pain.”
It was the United States government that ended the life of our Brother on that Memphis motel balcony at 39 years of age. His intellectual and spiritual journey into the mind of God may have been nearly complete. Among Dr. King’s personal effects were notes of a speech he was preparing to deliver on that Sunday titled:“Why America May Go To Hell.”
It is TRULY time that we acknowledge the brilliance of our great Brother, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, and to rescue his legacy from those who would misuse his words to send Blacks into that “burning house.”
Check out Cornel West’s “The Radical King” for more fascinating insights into one of the most respected leaders this country has ever had.