News Release

The Real Martin Luther King


While Martin Luther King Jr. will be widely commemorated next Monday for his work in the civil rights movement, the following analysts are available to discuss King’s work — including aspects that are often overlooked. In his “Beyond Vietnam” speech delivered a year to the day before he was killed, King called the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” saying it was “on the wrong side of a world revolution.” In his “Where Do We Go From Here?” speech he criticized the nature of capitalism, arguing that “we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” [See the King Papers Project: ]

Co-founder with King of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Rev. Lowery said: “I have a dream that the nation will see more than the 1963 ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Martin was a nonviolent revolutionary and he’s been portrayed like some little dreamer. We need to remember his views on capitalism and militarism and the responsibility of both the public and private sector to make up for their sins: to have affirmative action — some rightwingers are using his statement on ‘content of character’ to claim he would be opposed to it. We need to remember his vision for the Poor People’s Campaign, where we talked about everyone having an income and full employment.”

Archivist of the Montgomery Pioneer Voting Rights Activists at Trenholm State Technical College in Montgomery, Alabama, Patton said: “King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech was at the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom, organized with labor leadership, and it was in the context of full citizenship rights. Revisionists have taken all the meaning out of that march, but it was largely about economic justice and jobs and education. Just as we overcame restrictions on the right to vote, we still have the barrier of money in the political process — that’s what is standing in the way of full citizenship rights.”

Author of the Pulitzer Prize winner “Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference” and professor at Emory University Law School, Garrow said: “It’s ironic that King is being portrayed as a sort of celebrity; King was humble about his notoriety and didn’t feel individually deserving. He was sort of the anti-Clinton. From a sense of excessive honors came a sense of obligation about Vietnam and economic injustice.”

Author of “Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare?” and professor at the Union Theological Seminary, Cone said: “From ’65 to ’68, you get what Martin really meant by ‘the dream.’ It was not just idealism for him, it was something you had to work for: economic and political equality. Malcolm articulated the nightmare of America that most people of color experience.”

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