Three weeks before Dr. Martin Luther King was murdered in Memphis, Tennessee by a bullet drenched in hatred for his cause of social, economic, and civil equality. Dr. King visited Grosse Point, Michigan to make a speech. This post details my analysis and highlights words that embodied the major theme of that speech. At the time of this speech, Dr. King was no the national iconic figure he was in 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, nor was he being held as the voice of a nation with his 1963 speech on the Mall in Washington; nor was he being identified as a savior with his letter from a Birmingham Jail; nor was he seen as the moral voice of a people fighting oppression on a bridge in Selma Alabama. On this evening in Grosse Point, Michigan it seemed everywhere Dr. King turned his enemies were closing in on him. Those enemies were not only white but many of these opponents were black. They had ridiculed Dr. Martin Luther King's stance against the Vietnam War, his move away from civil rights legislation to economic rights and income redistribution for peoples of color, and the young black members of the communities had ignored his pleas for non-violent confrontations. Martin Luther King Jr. was sensing that the battle for a nation drawn together by love was being torn asunder by increasing hate. So on this day, I will spend the second session of my celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. interpreting some phrases from that March 14, 1968 speech.
Grosse Point Michigan
March 14, 1968
WE SHALL OVERCOME
In the following passage, Dr. King referenced Thomas Carlyle, William Cullen Bryant, and James Russell Lowell. Today, I will go directly to each reference line and read the passage in Carlyle's case and the complete poems in the case of Bryant and Lowell. How many of us exacted that information before? Dr. Martin Luther King was one of the greatest orators in history. So today I wanted to provide more historical background.
We shall overcome because Carlisle is right. "No lie can live forever." We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right. "Truth crushed to earth will rise again." We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right. "Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne. Yet that scaffold sways the future.” We shall overcome because the Bible is right. "You shall reap what you sow." With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when all of God's children all over this nation - black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old negro spiritual, "Free at Last, Free at Last, Thank God Almighty, We are Free At Last."