Monday, January 17, 2011

Have you heard Martin Luther King's final speech - the whole thing?

Delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr 3 April 1968, Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters), Memphis, Tennessee. It is ripped from a DVD from the series Great Speeches, volume 6th, published by EVG (Educational Video Group). To be watched for educational purposes only.

Everyone's heard the final words of Dr. King's last speech - "I've been to the mountaintop," "I may not get [to the promised land] with you" - but do you know what Dr. King was talking about that day, the day before he was killed?

I was 18, about to leave high school and go to college in Boston. My head was about to get turned around seriously, but from my comfortable home in the Twin Cities suburbs I had no idea what all these protestors were upset about.

I didn't recall the circumstances that day in Memphis, but this full length version of the speech starts with a narrator's description. Then listen to King's extraordinary oration, his call to his followers to keep the faith: "Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars"; "A man can't ride your back unless it is bent"; his retelling of being stabbed by a black woman in 1958, and why he's glad he didn't die that day - the things that happened every year since then.

The people King stood for were being firehosed to the ground, Maced, attacked by police dogs, for their peaceful assembly to protest segregation; and he lists an amazing array of companies to boycott because they wouldn't stand up to change it. Yet he preached non-violence, no matter what. This is a great orator, with a deep passion for the rightness of his cause.

The speech ends around 21:10; the video continues with the start of another track from the DVD.

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