It was the act that best illustrated the courage Martin Luther King, Jr. possessed.
Fifty years ago today, in a speech at the Riverside Church in New York City, King said of the Vietnam War: “We have been wrong from the beginning.”
Speaking At Riverside Church
[Image: John C. Goodwin]
He was pilloried. He was demonized. He lost Lyndon Johnson as an ally. He earned the scorn of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and even many of the traditional black newspapers around the country. Wits and wags called him ignorant, uninformed, naive, and, of course, a commie. Many in his own circle of friends and advisors implored him not to speak out so loudly and clearly against the war. He knew that decision makers, leaders, legislators — the establishment — would damn him.
His only sin, it turns out, was he spoke a year too soon. By February 1968, the tide of public opinion was beginning to turn against the war. By April, King would be dead.
Hell, just take a look at the entire speech, now known as “Beyond Vietnam,” delivered to a crowd of 3000 and sponsored by Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. I was fully prepared to run the whole thing here but, man, it is lo-o-ong. So, if you’re interested, here it is, from the King Estate Papers Project, via Stanford University’s King Encyclopedia.
And here, via the same route, is King’s response to an audience member asking how black men should react as Vietnam raged on.
BTW: Here’s Patti Smith, performing at the MLK birthday commemoration service at Riverside Church in 2012:
[Image: Cindy Ord/Getty Images North America]
Abraham, Martin and John
Any chance I can, I post this vid.