On April 3, 1968, Martin Luther King was in Memphis providing support and encouragement to 1300 African-American sanitation workers who had walked off their jobs in that city. His soaring prose repeats the mission that defined his life – the achievement of justice and equality for African-Americans which our constitution promised to each and every one of us. He made it clear that “We mean business now and we are determined to gain our rightful place in God’s world.”
King also had a clear strategy– ongoing peaceful protests in conjunction with economic sanctions against businesses which profited from the African American communities.
“And so, as a result of this, we are asking you tonight, to go out and tell your neighbors not to buy Coca-Cola in Memphis. Go by and tell them not to buy Sealtest milk… As Jesse Jackson has said, up to now, only the garbage men have been feeling pain; now we must kind of redistribute the pain. We are choosing these companies because they haven’t been fair in their hiring policies; and we are choosing them because they can begin the process of saying, they are going to support the needs and the rights of these men who are on strike.”
And then he urges the audience to start a bank-in by transferring their money to black institutions. He knew this all could be accomplished with dignity and he knew that it must be accomplished without violence. The Reverend Martin Luther King had no doubt that justice would prevail. Even without his voice. He was assassinated the following day, on April 4.
The complete text of his speech HERE