Floyd McKissick of CORE, Martin Luther King, Jr. of SCLC With Stokely Carmichael of SNCC During the March Against Fear in Mississippi, June 1966
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire Photo File.
Dr. King's Anti-War Legacy Must Not Be Forgotten
(35 years later the peace message is still relevant.)
By Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire
"So far, we may have killed a million of them--mostly
children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of
children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the
streets like animals."
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking on the US war in
Vietnam during 1967.
EDITORIAL, (PANW)--January 15, 2003 marks the seventy-forth
anniversary of the birth of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
in Atlanta, Georgia.
The son and grandson of Black Baptist ministers, Dr. King was
destined for a career of public service and leadership in his
southern community. However, the rapid developments of
political events during the 1950s propelled him and thousands
of others into the forefront of social struggles against
legalized segregation and institutional racism in the United
What is often ignored by the federal government and the mass
media who pay tribute to Dr. King annually on the third
Monday of January, is the tremendous anti-war and peace
legacy that the civil rights leader left during the critical
years of American military involvement in Vietnam and south-
With the influence of Mahatma Ghandi and other mass
liberation movements of the post World War II era, King
adopted a non-violent, civil disobedience approach to waging
war on the system of racial exploitation and degradation in
the American south. King's commitment was always geared
towards the allieviation of suffering and the upliftment of
humanity from oppression and poverty.
Although he recognized many years before the direct link
between American militarism and the movement for civil rights
and economic justice, it was not until early 1967 that Dr.
King placed his full weight behind the anti-war movement
designed to bring about the withdrawal of US forces from
In a story recounted by a Southern Christian Leadership
Conference colleague Rev. Bernard Lee of Atlanta, who says
that: "Martin and I were traveling to Jamaica. He was going
to finish a book that he had been working on. Martin always
carried a couple of really heavy suitcases. Never had any
clothes in them, really. They were filled with books and
magazines and various kinds of documents that he would study."
According to Rev. Lee, while they had dinner before boarding
the plane, Dr. King looked through an issue of Ramparts
magazine that featured photographs of Vietnamese civilians
victimized by the American bombing of the country in early
1967. Lee said that King "froze as he looked at the pictures
from Vietnam. He saw a picture of a Vietnamese mother
holding her dead baby, a baby killed by our military. Then
Martin just pushed the plate of food away from him. I looked
up and said, 'Doesn't it taste any good?' and he
answered, 'Nothing will ever tatse any good for me until I do
everything I can to end that war.'"
In March of 1967 Dr. King participated in the first massive
anti-war demonstration of the era in Chicago where he marched
alongside Dr. Benjamin Spock, Stokely Carmichael, then
chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee
(SNCC), and others who had already taken a firm stand against
US involvement in Vietnam. Two weeks later King was to
deliver his definitive position against the war in Vietnam
with addresses at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist in
Atlanta and at Riverside Church in New York City.
In these addresses delivered one year to the date before his
death, Dr. King said that Americans should "watch as we
poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops.
They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their area
preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the
hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American
firepower for one Vietcong-inflicted injury."
Dr. King's call for an immediate cessation to US military
action in Vietnam was denounced by the leading media outlets
and established organs of power of 1967 and 1968. Reader's
Digest magazine published an article stating that Dr. King
had created "doubt about the Negro's loyalty to his
country." He also became a pariah to the administration of
President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had signed the Civil Rights
and Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965.
Yet Dr. King remained steadfast in his position of linking
the civil rights movement with the anti-war struggle. In
late 1967 in a radio broadcast over the Canadian Broadcasting
Corportation's (CBC) annual Massey Lecture Series, he said
that: "The war in Vietnam is just a symptom of a far deeper
malady within the American spirit. And if we ignore this
sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing clergy
and layman concerned committees for the next generation.
They will be concerned with Guatemala and Peru; they will be
concerned about Thailand and Cambodia; they will be concerned
about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for
these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without
end unless there is a significant and profound change in
American life and politics."
These words were not only visionary but prophetic. Three-and-
one-half decades later, the American political economy is
still driven by war and economic exploitation. Today the
focus of attention for American militaristic and imperial
ambitions center on Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and North
Korea, as well as other areas of interests which include
Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, the Horn of Africa and Cuba.
Dr. King's assassination on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, amid
the ongoing sanitation worker's strike which had paralyzed
the city, illustrated the inability of the American ruling
class to come to grips with the necessity of reforming its
own system that is rooted in racism, genocide, greed and
social dominance. As we move further into a new century and
millennium we are faced with the continuation of many of the
same ills that Dr. King fought against during the late 1960s.
It is this challenge that we must take up in order to make
his dream of a trully just society a reality.
Jan. 18 anti-war mobilization is a fitting tribute to King
As hundreds of thousands of people prepare to demonstrate
against the impending military invasion of Iraq in
Washington, D.C., San Francisco and other cities around the
United States, this coming Saturday and Sunday, it is
important to reflect on the significance of this year's
anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. We must
continue the true legacy of Dr. King by opposing US
militarism and the continued explotiation of the poor and
working people of the United States and the world.
Corporate media pundits and the Bush White House will of
course make mockery of Dr. King's legacy through the
utterance of false platitudes and outright falsehoods as it
relates to this great civil rights and human rights leader of
the 20th century.
Despite these distortions, the modern-day disciples of peace
and social liberation will continue through the anti-war
movement to reclaim and honor the genuine legacy of Dr. King
and the movement he led.