News Release

Martin Luther King Jr.’s Legacy


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. … There is something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that would praise you when you say, ‘Be nonviolent toward [Selma, Ala. sheriff] Jim Clark!’ but will curse and damn you when you say, ‘Be nonviolent toward little brown Vietnamese children!’ There is something wrong with that press! …

“I’m 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. … When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered. A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our present policies. … True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth with righteous indignation.”
— From Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermon “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam” at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on April 30, 1967; audio and text available online.

The following can address King’s legacy in today’s context:

Longtime civil rights organizer in South Carolina and former president of the state ACLU, Gray is author of Waiting for Lightning to Strike: The Fundamentals of Black Politics and the forthcoming The Decline of Black Politics: From Malcolm X to Barack Obama. His most recent piece is “Playing the Race Game.”
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President of the Hip Hop Caucus, Yearwood is traveling through Birmingham, Ala., Atlanta, Ga. and Myrtle Beach, S.C. (for the presidential debates). He said today: “The Hip Hop Generation is the dream that Dr. King envisioned.”

Executive editor of Black Agenda Report, Ford recently wrote the piece “Giving Candidates the MLK Test.”
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Professor of law and of history at the University of Virgina, Goluboff is author of the recently released book The Lost Promise of Civil Rights. She said today: “King’s harsh criticisms of the economic system in the U.S. were no idiocracy of his, they were a manifestation of long-standing commitments by civil rights movement leaders and participants to challenge both the legal and the economic inequalities of the American racial order. The Brown v. Board of Ed decision — and the ways in which it was later mobilized — in many ways succeeded in limiting the civil rights movement to merely addressing a narrow segment of legal issues, despite the efforts of King and many others.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167