Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
(January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968)
For those who ask the question, "Aren't you a civil rights leader?" and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: "To save the soul of America." We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself unless the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:
O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath – America will be!
Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land. As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission – a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for "the brotherhood of man."
Excerpt “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence”
Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
April 4, 1967, Riverside Church
To read the entire speech, go to The King Center archive at http://www.thekingcenter.org/archive/document/beyond-vietnam#. Founded in 1968 by Coretta Scott King, The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change is the official, living memorial dedicated to advancing his legacy.
Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum. Image Serial Number: A2133-10