Sermons and speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. at the podium on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963.

The sermons and speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. comprise an extensive catalog of American writing and oratory — some of which are internationally well-known, while others remain unheralded, and some await re-discovery.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a prominent African American clergyman, a civil rights leader, and a Nobel laureate.[1]

King himself observed, "In the quiet recesses of my heart, I am fundamentally a clergyman, a Baptist preacher."[2]

Speechwriter and orator[edit]

The famous "I Have a Dream" address was delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Less well-remembered are the early sermons of that young, 25-year-old pastor who first began preaching at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama in 1954.[3] As a political leader in the Civil Rights Movement and as a modest preacher in a Baptist church, King evolved and matured across the span of a life cut short. The range of his rhetoric was anticipated and encompassed within "The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life," which he preached as his trial sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in 1954 and every year thereafter for the rest of his life.[4]

Sermons[edit]

Main article: How Long, Not Long
How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
They told us we wouldn't get here, used by then US-presidential candidate Barack Obama in his victory-speech (first preliminary) in Ohio 2008.
His final speech, and his final words in public: I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
  • 1968 — "Why America May go to Hell", planned to be delivered on April 7, 1968 but never delivered due to his assassination.[6]

Speeches[edit]

Year Date Title Location Notes
1955 December 5 Montgomery Improvement Association mass meeting speech
Montgomery, AL
1957 April 10 "A Realistic Look at the Question of Progress in the Area of Race Relations,"
St. Louis, MO
May 17 "Give Us the Ballot"
Washington, DC
1962 February 12 "If the Negro Wins, Labor Wins"
AFL–CIO Convention in Bal Harbour, Florida
King suggests that black emancipation is also the key to workers' rights. (Some confusion about whether the speech was December 1961 or February 1962.)
1963 June 23 The 'Great March on Detroit' speech
Detroit, MI
The Original "I Have A Dream" Speech – Titled, in LP released by Detroit's Gordy records, "The Great March to Freedom" (excerpt)
August 28 "I Have a Dream"
Washington, DC
Main article: I Have a Dream
September 18 Eulogy for the young victims of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing
Birmingham, AL
1964 December 10 Nobel Prize — acceptance speech
Oslo, Norway
December 11 "The Quest for Peace and Justice"
Oslo, Norway
Nobel laureate lecture
November 29 Untitled speech[7]
Dayton, OH
1966 May 5 "Family Planning — A Special and Urgent Concern";
accepting Planned Parenthood Federation of America's Margaret Sanger Award for "his courageous resistance to bigotry and his lifelong dedication to the advancement of social justice and human dignity."
Washington, DC
Due to what he described as "last minute urgent developments in the civil rights movement," Dr. King's wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, delivered his speech on his behalf.

Before reading Dr. King's speech, Mrs. King declared, "I am proud tonight to say a word in behalf of your mentor, and the person who symbolizes the ideas of this organization, Margaret Sanger. Because of her dedication, her deep convictions, and for her suffering for what she believed in, I would like to say that I am proud to be a woman tonight."[8]
May 18 "Don't Sleep Through the Revolution"
Hollywood, Florida
Given as the prestigious Ware Lecture at the General Assembly of the Unitarian Association of Congregations, now the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
June 17 "We Shall Overcome"
1967 April 4 "Beyond Vietnam"
New York, NY
April 30 "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam"
August 16 "Where Do We Go from Here?"
Atlanta, GA
speech to the 10th annual session of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference]
1968 March 14 "The Other America"
Grosse Pointe Farms, MI
[9]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Nobel Prize: Martin Luther King bio
  2. ^ Lischer, Richard. (2001). The Preacher King, p. 3.
  3. ^ Fuller, Linda K. (2004). National Days/National Ways: Historical, Political, And Religious Celebrations around the World, p. 314.
  4. ^ Lischer, p. 66.
  5. ^ Lischer, p. 81.
  6. ^ Vern E. Smith; Jon Meacham (1998). "Martin Luther King Jr.: The Legacy". Washington Post. 
  7. ^ "CBS to broadcast story on long-lost MLK speech at UD"
  8. ^ In a follow-up letter, Dr. King remarked:

    Words are inadequate for me to say how honored I was to be the recipient of the Margaret Sanger Award. This award will remain among my most cherished possessions. While I cannot claim to be worthy of such a signal honor, I can assure you that I accept it with deep humility and sincere gratitude. Such a wonderful expression of support is of inestimable value for the continuance of my humble efforts... I am happy to be the recipient of the Margaret Sanger Award and I can assure you that this distinct honor will cause me to work even harder for a reign of justice and a rule of love all over our nation. "Family Planning — A Special and Urgent Concern"

  9. ^ "The Other America". Grosse Pointe Historical Society. Retrieved March 21, 2010. 
  • Speech given at McFarlin Auditorium, Southern Methodist University March 17, 1966, drawn from same sources as April 10, 1957 St. Louis, Mo. speech.

Speech can be heard at: http://www.smu.edu/audio/mlk-at-smu-17march1966.wma

References[edit]

External links[edit]