Martin Luther King Jr. was not just the safe-for-all-political-stripes civil-rights activist he is often portrayed as today. He was never just the “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered 50 years ago Wednesday. He was an anti-war, anti-materialist activist whose views on American power would shock many of the same politicians who are currently scrambling to sing his praises.
King’s more radical worldview came out clearly in a speech to an overflow crowd of more than 3,000 people at Riverside Church in New York on April 4, 1967. “The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: ‘A time comes when silence is betrayal,’” he began. It wasn’t about the civil-rights movement — not directly, at least. “That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.”
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Top: Civil rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. waves to supporters on the Mall in Washington, D.C. during the “March on Washington,” on August 28, 1963. King said the march was “the greatest demonstration of freedom in the history of the United States.”
Center-left: Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk, burns himself to death on a Saigon street to protest alleged persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government, on June 11, 1963. (Credit: AP/Malcolm Browne)
Center-right: Firefighters turn their hoses full force on civil rights demonstrators in Birmingham, Alabama, on July 15, 1963. (Credit: AP/Bill Hudson)
Bottom: Three-year-old John F. Kennedy Jr. salutes his father’s casket in Washington on November 25, 1963. Widow Jacqueline Kennedy, center, and daughter Caroline Kennedy are accompanied by the late president’s brothers Senator Edward Kennedy, left, and Attorney General Robert Kennedy. (Credit: AP)