The Real Martin Luther King

January 15, 2018 § Leave a comment

On occasions like today, when the legacy of Martin Luther King is celebrated, I am frustrated.  If a stranger from some other country is visiting America today, he or she will be left with the impression that King was a champion of racial justice who led a famous march, made a famous speech in Washington D.C. and, together with President Lyndon B. Johnson, was responsible for the enactment of laws protecting black people from discrimination.

This, to me, is like describing a giant  as if he were a midget.

What is the Truth?

Marting Luther King was one of those remarkable men whose conscience  and intelligence drove him to disregard his own safety, his comfortable life and even the safety of his family and friends.  He was a man who could not and would not look away when he saw injustice.  He was a slave to his conscience.

Racial Injustice

It is true his first effort was based on the racial injustice he witnessed in Montgomery, Alabama where he lived and worked as a preacher.  He opposed it without regard to his own safety.  Ultimately, because of his example and his gifted ability to speak with passion and poetic force, he led a successful political movement that caused a Texas President to join his effort and effect some useful legal prohibitions against racist injustice.

Military Injustice

Half way around the world, a dishonest account of a naval incident in the Gulf of Tonkin was used to justify a needless war in Viet Nam.  Thousands of young men and women lost their lives in this unjustified war.  President Johnson’s presidency was ruined and his  reputation based on his leadership toward racial justice was stained because he chose to wage that unnecessary and unjust war.  He left office rather than continue to support the  war.

Marin Luther King had worked together with President Johnson to achieve progress toward racial justice in America.  He did not want to turn on his erstwhile ally because of  the Viet Nam War.  But, once again, his conscience prevailed.  He expressed strong opposition to the War and, thus, severed his alliance with LBJ, a bitter experience for both men.

Economic Injustice

On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis Tennessee.   He was there because he had been supporting a garbage workers strike.  The strike had been going on for months.  It was supported by both white and black people although the workers were mostly black.  Some of the marches and protests were joined by white college students and other white young people.


Dr. King was not just a supporter of black people.  He was a crusader against injustice, military, racial, and economic.  James Earl Ray was convicted of King’s assassination.  He spend over 40 years in prison, where he died.  He always denied having killed King.  Dr. King’s son visited Ray in prison and, after listening to him, declared he did not believe Ray had killed his father.  At the time of Ray’s death, Dr.. King’s son was trying to have him released.

Here is a link to an interesting account of MLK’s activity in support of the strike and some other facts concerning his assassination.


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