News Release

Martin Luther King Memorial: Honor or Burial of a Movement?


JARED BALL, freemixradio at
Ball is an associate professor of communication studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore and is the author of I Mix What I Like! A Mixtape Manifesto. He just wrote the piece “The Corporate King Memorial and the Burial of a Movement,” which states that the newly unveiled MLK Memorial is designed to ensure that “King be forever separated from his anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and anti-patient work for a genuine revolution.” Ball writes that in addition to TV ads for GM, King’s image and narrative have been walled in by the likes of “JP Morgan, Murdoch’s Direct TV, Exxon, Target and Wal-Mart — other bastions of workers’ rights and liberty.”

Ball is featured in the video “Dr. MLK Jr.: Struggling Not To Lose Him

CLARENCE LUSANE,  clusane at
Associate professor at American University, Lusane is author of The Black History of the White House. He said today: “Dr. King was the link between the powerful grassroots movement for social and racial justice and White Houses that were reluctant to live up to the nation’s stated principles. He articulated the grievances of the dispossessed but also their hopes, aspirations, and dreams. He made it impossible for the nation to stand still and by moral force and mass mobilization pushed the Kennedy and Johnson administrations to challenge southern white supremacy. While unforgivable and dispiriting racial disparities in employment, housing, education, access to health care, and in the criminal justice system continue to haunt the nation, King’s legacy of commitment to equality regardless of the odds (or even a black president) shows us a way forward. A permanent memorial for Dr. King is well deserved and an honor to both him and the social movement that changed the nation for the better.”

Background: King’s often referenced “I Have a Dream Speech” was given at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which was the vision of A. Philip Randolph, a union organizer and socialist.

Here are excerpts from King’s sermon “Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence” at the Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated:

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, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube…

Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores … A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their 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 and unconditional love for all mankind.

Full text and audio here.

After King was attacked for his remarks at Riverside, including by media such as the New York Times and Time magazine, he spoke out more passionately, including later that month:

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 [segregationist 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.  Excerpts of audio on YouTube.

Tavis Smiley reports that by the end of his life, “King had almost three-quarters … of the American people turned against him, 55 percent of his own people [African Americans] turned against him.” See: “Obama vs. Martin Luther King?

King’s 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” was addressed to clergy who stated they were pro-reform, but were advocating a slower approach than King, calling his actions “unwise and untimely”.