MLK's "A Time to Break Silence" speech delivered on April 4th 1967 in New York City was a forceful and scathing indictment of America's involvement and role in the Vietnam War. It was made against the hearty backdrop of crippling racism and poverty experienced by African Americans well before the 1960s.
The full speech was fire, and is definitely worth a good read. It is credited for elevating King from a civil rights advocate, to a human rights icon, and draws many parallels to the systemic challenges still experienced today.
King's birthday is a great time to discover new things about the civil rights leader, as well as learn more about his worldview, and why it was so impactful. The movement King championed is the reason people of all colors are accepted in wider society today. Check out some of his most memorable quotes from “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” below:
These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.
Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies.
True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.
We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem.
These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born.
We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late.
Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity.
There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect.
If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.
The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.
Now let us begin. Let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response.
Feeling inspired? Read: "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" another famed and powerful piece from the civil rights icon.
[ 16 April 1963 ]
My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely."...
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen:
I need not pause to say how very delighted I am to be here tonight, and how very delighted I am to see you...