Credit Matt Rota
It would be a mistake to read Dr. King’s speech as merely an antiwar statement. It reflected his widening worldview that chronic domestic poverty and military adventurism overseas infected the wealthiest nation on earth just as indelibly as did deep-rooted racism. It went to the heart of the multilayered social and political conflicts of the 1960s — and, like all great rhetoric, continues to speak to us today.
David J. Garrow, New York (NY) Times
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The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at an antiwar demonstration in New York in April 1967, with Dr. Benjamin Spock to his right. Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
April 4, 2017 | Fifty years ago today — and one year to the day before his assassination — the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the most politically charged speech of his life at Riverside Church in Upper Manhattan. It was a blistering attack on the government’s conduct of the Vietnam War that, among other things, compared American tactics to those of the Nazis during World War II.
The speech drew widespread condemnation from across the political spectrum, including from this newspaper. Other civil rights leaders, who supported the war and sought to retain President Lyndon B. Johnson as a political ally, distanced themselves from Dr. King.
David J. Garrow is the author of “Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference” and the forthcoming “Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama.”