This week marks the 53rd anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech. Most people know that MLK was a Baptist minister and civil rights hero. They know a holiday exists to honor him. But who was MLK, really, and what did he accomplish? This four-part series explores MLK's life and his legacy.
Listen to the full segment:
Martin Luther King, Jr. Part I
In 1760, the freedom of thought had not yet been born. It took courage to speak one's mind. So just a few years later, when Thomas Jefferson scribbled these words on paper, it was not only an act of courage, but of treason:
We find these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, with certain unalienable rights, given to them by their creator. Among them, life, liberty and property.
"Property" was later changed to "the pursuit of happiness" to ensure the slave trade would come to an end. Do Americans understand the impact of that change?
More than 200 years later, a black preacher from the South, Dr. Martin Luther King, courageously spoke out to make the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness a reality for all Americans.
We will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholic will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
---Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Part II
Who was civil rights icon Martin Luther King? Was he a social justice warrior who believed communism was the answer? Did he believe in Democratic or Republican principles? One need look no further than King himself for the answers.
MLK in his own words:
"It so happens that communism is a system that I disagree with philosophically. I would not prefer to live under a communist system. I happen to feel that the great moments of history have been those moments when individuals have been left free to think and to act. And I feel that communism often stands in the way of certain First Amendment privileges that we have in America, for instance, that I just couldn't adjust to."
"Well, they're certainly for civil rights and calling upon the Republican Party to take a forthright and positive position on civil rights."
At the time of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, 80 percent of Republicans supported civil rights compared to only 64 percent of Democrats. Prominent Democrats like LBJ initially fought against the Civil Rights Bill, seeking to weaken it. Al Gore's father opposed it, along with Klan member and Democratic senator Robert Byrd, and Democratic governor George Wallace.
Martin Luther King's close childhood friend Bruce Bizard emphatically believed King was a Republican:
Martin Luther King, Jr. was Republican because his dad, first of all, was a Republican. He was the headshot. He was the head of the family. And if his dad was a Republican, then the entire household was Republican.
Bishop Jim Lowe of Guiding Light Church, who was injured in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church that killed four little black girls in 1963, had this to say about the ideology of Martin Luther King:
Dr. King would be conservative. Come on, now, there's no question about that. And he would be, he would be ostracized and condemned by many, many black people, because a lot of part of what was going on, they were turning against him then because they wanted a faster action. He had to deal with the thing. He had to deal with the Black Panthers then. He had to deal with the Stokten Carmichaels and the radicals that were there. But in spite of what he had to deal with his own people, he still held fast to the truth of the Word of God.
King's niece Alveda King believes her uncle wasn't a member of either party.
He was not a Democrat or a Republican during his lifetime. He said that himself. He calls, I think, during his lifetime, Democrats were Dixiecrats, you know. And so he says, "I'm not a Dixiecrat, nor a member of the Republican Party. I need to be able to speak to everybody."
King's legacy and message have been twisted and contorted by men conspiring to promote their own agendas of self-interest. Along the way, his simplest and purest message has been lost or scattered:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
It is the quintessential conservative message: Judge me by my actions, by my contributions, by my merit.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Part III
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a complicated man, both champion of equal rights and unfaithful reverend to his devoted wife. This dichotomy has made him a difficult figure to understand and label. The left has elevated him to near Mount Olympus status, while the right has told of his communist leanings and immoral activities.
While King railed against racial and economic injustice, he also denounced LBJ's Great Society. While many King supporters believe he wanted socialism, he spoke out against communism. While appearing the devoted husband, wiretaps approved by then Attorney General Robert Kennedy, revealed King's multiple affairs. He was accused of plagiarizing both his Ph.D. dissertation from Boston University and I Have a Dream speech. The former is true; the latter is not.
Clearly, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a complex and deeply flawed man. Whatever MLK believed ideologically, whatever his moral flaws, his success in moving a nation forward on civil rights --- with love and nonviolence --- should be admired and emulated.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Part IV
Martin Luther King and Malcolm X shared a common goal: Civil rights for black Americans --- but they had very different philosophies about how to reach that goal. Malcolm X embraced violence and openly attacked MLK's strategy of non-violent resistance, calling it "psychologically insecure." However, King's philosophy did include resistance in a "very strong and determined manner" without the use of violence.
King never wavered from this belief, and his methods worked. In 1964, Congress, led by Republicans, finally passed the Civil Rights Bill, which had been delayed repeatedly, as well as opposed and voraciously fought against by Democrats for decades. But the tide had turned to side with reason and right.
After listening to Congress debate the bill, Martin Luther King made his way through the throngs of admirers on Capitol Hill when a tall, lanky man stepped out of the crowd.
"Well, Malcolm, it's good to see you," said Martin Luther King.
"It's good to see you too," replied Malcolm X.
Those were virtually all the two icons ever said to each other, in their only face-to-face meeting. Many have said that Malcolm X was beginning to moderate his views, eventually appreciating King's successful, non-violent approach.
In February 1965, violence visited Malcolm X when he was assassinated by members of the Nation of Islam. Three years later, the peacemaker Martin Luther King, Jr. would also be assassinated. Robert F. Kennedy, the man who had approved wiretapping MLK's activities, made the announcement to a stunned and horrified crowd.
I'm only going to talk to you for just a minute or so this evening because I have some very sad news for all of you, and I think sad news for all of our fellow citizens and people who love peace all over the world. And that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.
While Martin Luther King, Jr. was not able to fully realize his dreams, he did inspire a nation to dream on:
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."
Listen to all serials at glennbeck.com/serials