News Release

MLK Today: Voting Rights, Racism, War, Poverty


Rev. GRAYLAN S. HAGLER, gshagler at, @graylanhagler
Hagler is senior pastor at the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. which is having a Martin Luther King service on Sunday. He is also chair of Faith Strategies, which works to “insure that human, civil and workers rights are promoted throughout the society and in public discourse.”

In his final years many are still unaware that King focused more on fighting poverty, launching the Poor People’s Campaign. During actions with the Poor People’s Campaign in 2018, Rev. Hagler was arrested at a protest for voting rights — see: “D.C. pastor shackled, held 27 hours for praying on Supreme Court steps.” He had his passport taken from him and had to report to authorities on a weekly basis.

See from the Atlantic in 2013: “Martin Luther King’s Economic Dream: A Guaranteed Income for All Americans.”

Also often overlooked is that in King’s final year, he was perhaps the most prominent critic of the Vietnam War. At the Riverside Church in New York City exactly a year before his assassination, King gave his “Beyond Vietnam” speech: “I am 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. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

After King was attacked for his remarks at Riverside, including by media such as the New York Times and Time magazine, he spoke out even more passionately. From the pulpit of his own Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta later that month, on April 30, 1967, he would deliver the sermon “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam,” in which he rebuked the major media outlets: “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!”