A closer look at his lesser-known speeches and his lasting impact on the civil rights movement
As we honor civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his work to end racial segregation today, we are reminded of the powerful speeches and sermons that he delivered throughout his lifetime. While many of us are familiar with his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, there are several other lesser-known speeches given by Dr. King that are equally powerful and impactful.
MLK’s “Our God Is Marching On” was delivered on March 25, 1965 during the Selma to Montgomery marches. In this speech, he emphasized the power of God in the Civil Rights Movement and the progress that had been made so far. He acknowledged the violence and racial injustice that the movement faced at the time but assured his listeners that the movement would continue to move forward and would not be deterred. Dr. King finished his speech with an impassioned call for unity and perseverance in the struggle for freedom and equality.
Dr. King delivered “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” on April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York City. Speaking out against what he called an “evil and unjust war” in Vietnam, MLK pointed out the American government’s hypocrisy in claiming to fight for freedom and democracy abroad while denying it to people of color within its own borders. He linked the struggle for civil rights at home to the struggle against the war abroad and called on the government to shift its priorities toward peace and social justice.
Another lesser-known speech is “The Other America,” which was delivered at Stanford University on April 14, 1967. Dr. King highlighted how poverty and economic inequality still persisted in America, despite the progress that had been made in the civil rights movement. In a critique of the government’s lack of action to address these issues, he called for a “radical revolution of values” where society prioritizes the needs of the poor and marginalized communities. MLK also stated that economic inequality is not only a moral issue, but also a political one, and he called on people to take action and advocate for policies that would bring about economic justice for all.
Lastly, Dr. King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech was delivered on April 3, 1968, just one day before his assassination. Here, MLK reflected on his life and the civil rights movement, and he urged his listeners to continue the struggle for justice. He spoke about the progress that had been made in the movement, but also acknowledged the challenges and obstacles that still lay ahead. Speaking prophetically about his death, Dr. King said it would not be the end of the movement. He finished his speech with an emotional and powerful call to action, asking people to continue to work for change and to not let the struggle die with him.
These lesser-known speeches of Dr. King remind us of the breadth and depth of his vision for a just and equitable society. Although there is still work to be done, we have come a long way since he gave these speeches. For example, firm co-founder Vineet Dubey, who grew up in Clinton, Mississippi, experienced first-hand the progress made in his small town where schools were segregated just one generation before his. In his high school, made up of a roughly 35% black and 65% white student body with a few Indian students like himself, Vineet and his fellow students played sports together and ate lunch together, showing a stark contrast to the time of separate water fountains and bathrooms.
Today, the Clinton Public School District holds an “A” rating by the state and is ranked No. 3 overall, with district officials crediting part of this success to their unique model for maintaining schools with a diverse student population that is balanced racially and economically. First implemented in 1971, this system allowed public-school students to learn alongside each other regardless of race, economic status or where they live.
As we celebrate this national holiday, we urge you to reflect on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s powerful impact on our society and encourage others to do the same.