When Martin Luther King Came to Harlem

“Less than a year before his assassination, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. came to Harlem. In the June 22, 1967, Village Voice, contributor Marlene Nadle observed the crowd anxiously awaiting the Baptist minister’s arrival: ‘Using programs folded accordion style instead of pastel fans with pictures of Christ, they managed to turn the chandeliered ballroom of the Hotel Roosevelt into a Baptist Church.’ At times during her reporting on the event, Nadle comes across as jaded, as in her description of when the audience initially glimpses King in a movie being shown by the hospital workers’ union, which had arranged the event: ‘The Lord appeared for the first time — on film. There was a great burst of applause.’ But when King arrives in the flesh and delivers his speech, Nadle acknowledges why the crowd is so rapt: ‘What he said was not important. It was the man who lent weight to the words. It was his presence felt, his integrity sensed. Such a man could make the telephone book seem like the gospel.’ But in point of fact, her coverage of the speech revealed that King’s words were very important. He was unafraid to speak to America’s most powerful interests — at his growing peril. Nadle relates his principled opposition to the Vietnam War: ‘ ‘Who appointed this country divine agent to the world?’ he asked. ‘Who gave it the arrogance to try to fix up another country when it hasn’t put its own house in order? How can it expect its black soldiers to fight in brutal solidarity with whites in Vietnam and then come home and not be able to live on the same block with them?’ ‘ King goes on to ask: ‘How come this country only worries about Vietnam? How come it doesn’t use its power against South Africa or Rhodesia?’ And the stirring oratory calling out hypocrisy at the top just keeps coming. … The crowd answered: ‘Amen.’ Then King, foreshadowing why he is celebrated every year — on his birthday in the dead of winter — as a great American, concluded, ‘We shall overcome. No lie can live forever.’ …”
The Nation: Hammer of Civil Rights By Martin Luther King Jr. (March 9, 1964)
To Build a Mature Society: The Lasting Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Beyond Vietnam” Speech

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
This entry was posted in Civil Rights Mov., Harlem, MLKJr., Religion, Vietnam War and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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