Celebrating 90 years of Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.: 1929 – 2019


Makheru Bradley
Makheru Bradley
Our Esteemed Ancestor Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. was taken out of his development after only 13 years of civil rights and human rights activism. He was only 39, a young age compared to the average age of global leaders today. While begrudgingly honoring Dr. King for his contributions to reforming American society, many representatives of the same forces who opposed Dr. King while he was alive seek to keep his development frozen on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, as a mere dreamer of an integrated America.

To free Dr. King’s legacy from the intellectual prison of Eurocentric fragmentation we must engage in a holistic analysis of the “Essential King.” I am presenting a selection of Dr. King’s quotes to facilitate this process.

Dr. King was a person of immense courage who always walked with the masses of grassroots people.

“Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles.

Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances.

Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it.

Cowardice asks the question, is it safe?

Expediency ask the question, is it politic?

Vanity asks the question, is it popular?

But, conscience ask the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.”

Talking about the Ghetto, the Power Structure and Derivative Crimes

“We must recognize that the ghetto is a domestic colony. Black people must develop programs that will aid in the transfer of power and wealth into the hands of ghetto residents so that they may in reality control their own destinies.”

“The slums are the handiwork of a vicious system of the white society. Negroes live in them, but they do not make them any more than a prisoner makes a prison. And so let us say forthrightly that, if the total slum violations of law by the white man over the years are calculated and compared with the lawbreaking of a few days of riots, the hardened criminal would handily be the white man. In using the term white man I am seeking to describe in general terms the Negro's adversary. I seek not to categorize all white people by any use of the term white man.

The policy-makers of the white society have caused the darkness: they created discrimination; they created slums; they perpetuate unemployment, ignorance, and poverty. It is incontestable and deplorable that Negroes have committed crimes, but they are derivative crimes. They are born of the greater crimes of white society.”

American Democracy is Disguised Hypocrisy

“The problem is so tenacious because, despite its virtues and attributes, America is deeply racist and its democracy is flawed both economically and socially.”

“Our moral values and our spiritual confidence sink, even as our material wealth ascends. In these trying circumstances the Black revolution is much more than a struggle for the rights of Negroes. It is forcing America to face all its interrelated flaws--racism, poverty, militarism, and materialism. It is exposing evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of our society. It reveals systemic rather than superficial flaws and suggests that radical reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced.”

Black Power and Liberating Our Minds

“Black Power is a psychological reaction to the psychological indoctrination that led to the creation of the perfect slave…Anyone familiar with the Black Power movement recognizes that defiance of white authority and white power is a constant theme…”

“Psychological freedom, a firm sense of self- esteem, is the most powerful weapon against the long night of physical slavery.”

“I am not sad that Black Americans are rebelling; this was not only inevitable but eminently desirable.”

"I’ve come here tonight and plead with you. Be proud of yourself and believe that you’re somebody. I said to a group last night, ‘Nobody else can do this for us.’ No document can do this for us. No Lincolnian proclamation can do this for us; no Kennedysonian or Johnsonian civil rights bill can do this for us. If the Negro is to be free he must move down into the inner resources of his own soul and sign, with a pen and ink of self-asserted manhood, his own Emancipation Proclamation. Don’t; let anybody take your manhood. Be proud of our heritage; as somebody said earlier tonight, we don’t have anything to be ashamed of. Somebody told a lie one day. They couched it in language. They made everything black, ugly and evil. Look in your dictionary and see the synonyms of the word ‘black.’ It’s always something degrading and low and sinister. Look at the word, ‘white.’ It’s always some pure, high and mighty. I want to get the language so right that everybody here will cry out, Yes I’m Black and I’m proud of it. I’m Black and I’m beautiful.”

The Politics of War

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

“I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.”

“We are in an era in which the issue of human rights is the central question confronting all nations. In this complex struggle an obvious but little appreciated fact has gained attention-the large majority of the human race is non-white-yet it is that large majority which lives in hideous poverty. While millions enjoy an unexampled opulence in developed nations, ten thousand people die of hunger each and every day of the year in the undeveloped world. To assert white supremacy, to invoke white economic and military power, to maintain the status quo is to foster the danger of international race war.

“When Rome began to disintegrate from within, it turned to a strengthening of the military establishment, rather than to a correction of corruption within the society. We are doing the same thing in this society and the result will probably be the same.”

“Don't let anybody make you think that God chose America as his divine, messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world.”

“American people must have an opportunity to vote into oblivion those who cannot detach themselves from militarism.”

True Peace and Justice

"I'm not only going to be concerned about justice for Negroes in the United States because I know that justice is indivisible, and injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. I'm concerned about justice for everybody the world over."

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”