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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech” is a gift. And no matter how many times I hear his speech over the radio or on the television, I’m moved and inspired. It never gets old.

But, it’s always nice to have a bit of creative inspiration infuse a classic speech. And this video from SALT retelling the concluding four minutes of Dr. King’s speech does just that. You hear young and old, black and white, male and female recite Dr. King’s moving words in English and Spanish. It’ll inspire you too.

I encourage you to share it with your closest friends and newest colleagues. And, I’ll echo a question put to us by Elizabeth Myer Boulton, the creative director behind the film:

How far have we come on the journey to social justice and what must be done to achieve the dream King so eloquently articulated in 1963?
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“Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

What I’m reading today courtesy of The Faith & Politics Institute’s Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage.
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

“Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

What I’m reading today courtesy of The Faith & Politics Institute’s Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage.

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Comments
obitoftheday:

Obit of the Day (Historical): Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968)
Today marks the 45th anniversary of the death of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was assassinated by James Earl Ray* on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. King was in the city to support a strike by the city’s black sanitation workers. (The strike was precipitated by the deaths of two black workers who were crushed in malfunctioning garbage truck.) 
Dr. King was standing on a balcony outside of his motel room joking with Jesse Jackson (future leader of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and presidential candidate). At 6:01 p.m. a shot rang out and Dr. King collapsed onto the balcony. It was determined later that he was shot with a 30.06 caliber rifle which struck him on the right side of the face and throat.
The 39-year-old civil rights champion was pronounced dead at 7:06 p.m. at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Memphis. It was quickly determined that Dr. King was shot and killed by a “bare headed white man in his 30’s, wearing a black suit and a black tie.” He was alleged to be driving a white Mustang.
The death of Dr. King, a believer in non-violent protest that he adapted from Gandhi, sparked actions in the black community that Dr. King had fought against more than a decade. Riots broke out in Los Angeles, Detroit, and Newark, NJ. In Chicago 3,000 National Guard troops were marched into the city’s West and South Sides where rioting and looting had broken out. Some fires were set but the casualty rate was low and the city returned to relative calm by that Monday. (It was during the Chicago riots that Mayor Richard J. Daley infamously ordered police “to shoot to kill any arsonist or anyone with a Molotov cocktail in his hand … and … to shoot to maim or cripple anyone looting any stores in our city.” There were anywhere from 9 to 11 deaths over the weekend but the causes were never determined.)
Dr. King, who was born Michael Luther King, Jr. but had it changed by his father so their names would honor the Protestant reformer, was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1929. Following in his father’s footsteps, Dr. King decided in his junior year at Morehouse College to become a pastor.
He studied theology at Crozier Theological Seminary in Chester, PA where he was one of only 6 black students in a class of 100. But his leadership ability shone through and he was elected class president - the first African American to hold the position. He also earned a fellowship for doctoral work.
He enrolled at Boston College and while in Massachusetts, met Coretta Scott, who was studying music at Antioch College. They married in 1953.The following year Dr. King was hired as the pastor at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. He was 25 years old. 
Then on December 1, 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man.
Four days later the Montgomery Bus Boycott began and Dr. King was elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association. The boycott lasted 381 days, brought national attention to Mrs. Parks, segregation, and the young Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (The boycott ended on December 20, 1956 after the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling declaring the bus segregation unconstitutional.)
From that time Dr. King became the face of the modern civil rights movement. He returned to his home of Atlanta in 1959 and from there with the support of organizations including the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Dr. King the push for civil rights across the segregated South.
Dr. King, and thousands of men, women, and children, would silently suffer through arrests, beatings, attacks by dogs, and blasts of fire hose water presenting to the United States and the world a non-violent response to unbridled violence and hatred.
Dr. King’s greatest moment was seen by millions. On August 28, 1963 A. Philip Randolph, the head of the International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, partnered with six other civil rights organizations planned a march on Washington, D.C. Dr. King spoke to the assembled crowd of 200,000 - of all races and ages - and television audiences in the millions telling them, “I have a dream…” (You can see the entire speech here.)
In 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. (In 1950 Ralph Bunche was the first black person to win the Peace Prize. He was given the award for his mediation in Palestine.)
The work of Dr. King and countless leader would lead directly to the passage of the 1964 Voting Rights Act and the 1965 Civil Rights Act, both signed by President Lyndon Johnson. Dr. King was present at the signing of the latter.
After Dr. King’s death he received a final measure of disrespect. Georgia governor Lester Maddox refused to allow Dr. King’s body to lie in state at the capitol building. He stated that Dr. King was an “enemy of the country.” He did not close the state government in Dr. King’s honor and refused to lower flags to half-staff until he was told that it was a federal order. Governor Maddox even placed the National Guard around the capitol building in order to “protect the property of the state.” Over 200,000 mourners attended Dr. King’s funeral and there were no incidents of violence.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was buried in Southview Cemetery with his parents. Later his body was moved to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center located at the former site of his boyhood home.
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the law making the third Monday of January a federal holiday in honor of Dr. King. On August 22, 2011 the Martin Luther King Memorial was opened to the public in Washington, D.C. 
Note: This is a far from a full treatment of the life of Dr. King. It is a summary of his life and legacy. I know that I have left out significant moments in his life and career. There are myriad resources available detailing, in full, Dr. King’s life and legacy. OOTD recommends you search them out for more information.
Sources: NY Times obituary, NY Times assassination coverage, Chicago Tribune, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, CORE, Our Georgia History, Answers.com, Wikipedia.org
(Image of an unidentified girl walking past Dr. King’s coffin on April 9, 1968. The photograph is copyright of Harry Benson, www.harrybenson.com.)
* Although James Earl Ray was arrested and sentenced to 99 years in prison, there was later discussion that he was not either the true shooter or acting alone. Even members of the King family felt that Dr. King’s murder was part of a larger conspiracy. Mr. Ray died in prison in 1998 at the age of 60 having recanted his confession to the murder and pleading for a new trial. No evidence has been made public presenting another theory for Dr. King’s murder.
Other relevant OOTD posts:
Dr. Joe Williams - St. Louis civil rights leader
Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth - SCLC co-founder and sometime critic of MLK
Clara Luper - Oklahoma civil rights pioneer (an OOTD favorite)
Rep. Katie Hall - Indiana Democrat who sponsored bill to create MLK holiday
Dan Martin - Atlanta florist who supplied flowers for Dr. King’s funeral

On this day, I recommend listening to conversations with two of the men closest to him: John Lewis and Vincent Harding.
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

obitoftheday:

Obit of the Day (Historical): Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968)

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the death of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was assassinated by James Earl Ray* on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. King was in the city to support a strike by the city’s black sanitation workers. (The strike was precipitated by the deaths of two black workers who were crushed in malfunctioning garbage truck.) 

Dr. King was standing on a balcony outside of his motel room joking with Jesse Jackson (future leader of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and presidential candidate). At 6:01 p.m. a shot rang out and Dr. King collapsed onto the balcony. It was determined later that he was shot with a 30.06 caliber rifle which struck him on the right side of the face and throat.

The 39-year-old civil rights champion was pronounced dead at 7:06 p.m. at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Memphis. It was quickly determined that Dr. King was shot and killed by a “bare headed white man in his 30’s, wearing a black suit and a black tie.” He was alleged to be driving a white Mustang.

The death of Dr. King, a believer in non-violent protest that he adapted from Gandhi, sparked actions in the black community that Dr. King had fought against more than a decade. Riots broke out in Los Angeles, Detroit, and Newark, NJ. In Chicago 3,000 National Guard troops were marched into the city’s West and South Sides where rioting and looting had broken out. Some fires were set but the casualty rate was low and the city returned to relative calm by that Monday. (It was during the Chicago riots that Mayor Richard J. Daley infamously ordered police “to shoot to kill any arsonist or anyone with a Molotov cocktail in his hand … and … to shoot to maim or cripple anyone looting any stores in our city.” There were anywhere from 9 to 11 deaths over the weekend but the causes were never determined.)

Dr. King, who was born Michael Luther King, Jr. but had it changed by his father so their names would honor the Protestant reformer, was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1929. Following in his father’s footsteps, Dr. King decided in his junior year at Morehouse College to become a pastor.

He studied theology at Crozier Theological Seminary in Chester, PA where he was one of only 6 black students in a class of 100. But his leadership ability shone through and he was elected class president - the first African American to hold the position. He also earned a fellowship for doctoral work.

He enrolled at Boston College and while in Massachusetts, met Coretta Scott, who was studying music at Antioch College. They married in 1953.The following year Dr. King was hired as the pastor at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. He was 25 years old. 

Then on December 1, 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man.

Four days later the Montgomery Bus Boycott began and Dr. King was elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association. The boycott lasted 381 days, brought national attention to Mrs. Parks, segregation, and the young Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (The boycott ended on December 20, 1956 after the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling declaring the bus segregation unconstitutional.)

From that time Dr. King became the face of the modern civil rights movement. He returned to his home of Atlanta in 1959 and from there with the support of organizations including the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Dr. King the push for civil rights across the segregated South.

Dr. King, and thousands of men, women, and children, would silently suffer through arrests, beatings, attacks by dogs, and blasts of fire hose water presenting to the United States and the world a non-violent response to unbridled violence and hatred.

Dr. King’s greatest moment was seen by millions. On August 28, 1963 A. Philip Randolph, the head of the International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, partnered with six other civil rights organizations planned a march on Washington, D.C. Dr. King spoke to the assembled crowd of 200,000 - of all races and ages - and television audiences in the millions telling them, “I have a dream…” (You can see the entire speech here.)

In 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. (In 1950 Ralph Bunche was the first black person to win the Peace Prize. He was given the award for his mediation in Palestine.)

The work of Dr. King and countless leader would lead directly to the passage of the 1964 Voting Rights Act and the 1965 Civil Rights Act, both signed by President Lyndon Johnson. Dr. King was present at the signing of the latter.

After Dr. King’s death he received a final measure of disrespect. Georgia governor Lester Maddox refused to allow Dr. King’s body to lie in state at the capitol building. He stated that Dr. King was an “enemy of the country.” He did not close the state government in Dr. King’s honor and refused to lower flags to half-staff until he was told that it was a federal order. Governor Maddox even placed the National Guard around the capitol building in order to “protect the property of the state.” Over 200,000 mourners attended Dr. King’s funeral and there were no incidents of violence.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was buried in Southview Cemetery with his parents. Later his body was moved to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center located at the former site of his boyhood home.

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the law making the third Monday of January a federal holiday in honor of Dr. King. On August 22, 2011 the Martin Luther King Memorial was opened to the public in Washington, D.C. 

Note: This is a far from a full treatment of the life of Dr. King. It is a summary of his life and legacy. I know that I have left out significant moments in his life and career. There are myriad resources available detailing, in full, Dr. King’s life and legacy. OOTD recommends you search them out for more information.

Sources: NY Times obituary, NY Times assassination coverage, Chicago Tribune, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, CORE, Our Georgia History, Answers.com, Wikipedia.org

(Image of an unidentified girl walking past Dr. King’s coffin on April 9, 1968. The photograph is copyright of Harry Benson, www.harrybenson.com.)

* Although James Earl Ray was arrested and sentenced to 99 years in prison, there was later discussion that he was not either the true shooter or acting alone. Even members of the King family felt that Dr. King’s murder was part of a larger conspiracy. Mr. Ray died in prison in 1998 at the age of 60 having recanted his confession to the murder and pleading for a new trial. No evidence has been made public presenting another theory for Dr. King’s murder.

Other relevant OOTD posts:

Dr. Joe Williams - St. Louis civil rights leader

Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth - SCLC co-founder and sometime critic of MLK

Clara Luper - Oklahoma civil rights pioneer (an OOTD favorite)

Rep. Katie Hall - Indiana Democrat who sponsored bill to create MLK holiday

Dan Martin - Atlanta florist who supplied flowers for Dr. King’s funeral

On this day, I recommend listening to conversations with two of the men closest to him: John Lewis and Vincent Harding.

~Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Comments
anniebissett:

… if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole of human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, “Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?” …Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty, and say, “If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the 20th century, I will be happy.”
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!
And so I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!
- Martin Luther King Jr., the night before he was killed at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis.
Woodblock print by Annie Bissett

anniebissett:

… if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole of human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, “Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?” …Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty, and say, “If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the 20th century, I will be happy.”

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!

- Martin Luther King Jr., the night before he was killed at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis.

Woodblock print by Annie Bissett

Comments
King constantly pointed out to those in the freedom movement that their refusal to respond in kind to the violence and terrorism of their opponents was increasing their own strength and unity. He reminded them and the world that their goal was not only the right to sit at the front of the bus or to vote, but to give birth to a new society based on more human values. In so doing, he not only empowered those on the front lines, but in the process developed a strategy for transforming a struggle for rights into a struggle that advances the humanity of everyone in the society and thereby brings the beloved community closer to realization. This is what true revolutions are about.
-

Martin Luther King in 1966Grace Lee Boggs, from her article “The Beloved Community of Martin Luther King” commemorating the 75th anniversary of his birth.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks in Paris in March 1966. (photo: AFP/Getty Images)

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Change and Hope Come from the Margins

by Krista Tippett, host

I can only urge you to listen to this wise voice of history and its deep resonance for the contemporary world. Vincent Harding uses the word “magnificent” often and he embodies that word.

He offers an essential and utterly helpful perspective, I feel, to our ongoing collective reflection on civility, moral imagination, and social healing. He was a friend and speechwriter of Martin Luther King Jr. and a force in the philosophy of nonviolence that drove the civil rights movement’s success. That is to say, he was at the center of a moment of human and societal transformation that was wrested from another American era of toxic division and social violence. And Vincent Harding has continued to mine the lessons of that time in the intervening decades, and to bring them creatively and usefully to young people today.

These are stories we rarely see or hear, and they are happening in neighborhoods in places like Detroit and Philadelphia where our lens is usually focused on despair and decay.

"We Shall Overcome" (1964)

So among other things — interestingly, from a very different direction, echoing my conversation with Frances Kissling — Vincent Harding reminds us that change and hope come from the margins. And he has stories to tell about that hope as it’s embodied and lived on the margins of today.

This is also a beautiful hour of production — rich with the music by which people, as Vincent Harding puts it, did not merely demonstrate but “sang” their way to freedom in the 1960s. You will never hear the song "This Little Light of Mine" or the phrase "a Kumbaya moment" in the same way again. Enjoy, and be enriched.

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Change and Hope Come from the Margins

by Krista Tippett, host

Reverend Jim Forbes (L) hugs Dr. Vincent Harding (R)I can only urge you to listen to Vincent Harding, a wise voice of history and its deep resonance for the contemporary world. He uses the word “magnificent” often and he embodies that word.

Vincent Harding offers an essential and utterly helpful perspective, I feel, to our ongoing collective reflection on civility, moral imagination, and social healing. He was a friend and speechwriter of Martin Luther King Jr. and a force in the philosophy of nonviolence that drove the civil rights movement’s success. That is to say, he was at the center of a moment of human and societal transformation that was wrested from another American era of toxic division and social violence. And Vincent Harding has continued to mine the lessons of that time in the intervening decades, and to bring them creatively and usefully to young people today.

These are stories we rarely see or hear, and they are happening in neighborhoods in places like Detroit and Philadelphia where our lens is usually focused on despair and decay.

So among other things — interestingly, from a very different direction, echoing my conversation with Frances Kissling — Vincent Harding reminds us that change and hope come from the margins. And he has stories to tell about that hope as it’s embodied and lived on the margins of today.

This is also a beautiful hour of production — rich with the music by which people, as Vincent Harding puts it, did not merely demonstrate but “sang” their way to freedom in the 1960s. You will never hear the song “This Little Light of Mine” or the phrase “a Kumbaya moment" in the same way again. Enjoy, and be enriched.

About the image: Reverend Jim Forbes (L) hugs Dr. Vincent Harding (R) during a service at All Souls Church to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday (photo: Mark Ralston/Getty Images).

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"I Tried to Be a Good Man"

by Trent Gilliss, online editor

One of the more fabulous aspects of working at SOF is being surrounded by a crazy number of talented people from other other regional and national programs that are part of our parent company, American Public Media (if you’d like, I can try to explain the complexity of the public radio world and distributors some time). I’m overwhelmed by the wide array of topics and material being produced and, unfortunately, never get to hear.

Our colleagues next door at American RadioWorks just released a riveting documentary about the last year of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life. As a bonus, the executive editor Stephen Smith presented a live performance for his colleagues — a 35-minute pictorial narrative he had given at a commemorative event in historic Riverside Church in New York.

It’s not often that our topic area overlaps so overtly with our next-door neighbors’ material. In this case, King’s religious and moral language wasn’t ignored or minimized for the political, the historical, the newsiness of it all. It wasn’t an anecdote. Sitting in a small crowd of 50 with my colleagues, I was engaged from the first photo, an image of King preaching with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel sitting in the background.

I was overtaken by his recorded words from a sermon given at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta in 1968, shortly before his assassination. I had never heard King like that before.

King’s context was the 60s and civil rights. His legacy today is more than that. His ability is to relate to one’s personal failures and struggles and say, “It’s alright. Keep on trying.” As a husband and a father and a journalist, “I want to be a good man.”

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