Martin Luther King's Other Dream

By Mary Elizabeth King 08-29-2011

The forthcoming dedication of the national memorial monument honoring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., affords an opening for considering the complexity and meaning of his leadership. He was not the tamed and desiccated civil hero as often portrayed in the United States around the time of his birthday, celebrated as a national holiday. He was until the moment of his death raising issues that challenged the conventional wisdom on poverty and racism, but also concerning war and peace.

King was in St. Joseph's Infirmary, Atlanta, for exhaustion and a viral infection when it was reported that he would receive the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize. As Gary M. Pomerantz writes in Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn, this was the apparent cost exacted by intelligence surveillance efforts and the pressures of learning that Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy had formally approved wiretaps by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. His evolving strength as a leader is revealed in his remarks in Norway that December, which linked the nonviolent struggle of the U.S. civil rights movement to the entire planet's need for disarmament. Noting that the movement's most exceptional characteristic was the direct participation of masses of people in it, and crediting Gandhi's influence on him, King's remarks in Oslo were also his strongest call for the use of nonviolent resistance on issues other than racial injustice. International nonviolent action, he said, could be utilized to let global leaders know that beyond racial and economic justice, individuals across the world were concerned about world peace: "I venture to suggest [above all]

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