Martin Luther King- I’ve Been to the Mountaintop

by on April 4, 2011 · 7 comments

in Anna's Video Pick, Civil Rights

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

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Danny Morales April 4, 2011 at 12:20 pm

The video confirms my suspicion that Dr. King knew he was soon to be assasinated.
He almost collapses into the arms of his fellows after he walks away from the pulpit.
A moment of resignation? An expression of grief? Or just exhaustion from a man who had just put his all into a public presentation? – Whatever it may be this video has to be one of the most valuable pieces of historical record. Like his “Beyond Viet Nam” speech given one year to the day before this one, Dr. King shows future generations what we continue to aspire to as Americans- See you on the high road to progress- Danny


annagrace April 4, 2011 at 2:00 pm

By 1956 Dr King had been arrested once and his house was fire bombed. At the time of his assassination he had been arrested upwards of twenty times and assaulted four times. I don’t think the man had any illusions about living a long life. At the point in the video in which he says he’s been to the mountaintop, he turns his face toward us and it is tranquil, resigned, and yet there is something else. His voice catches and his smooth face reveals an awareness of mortality- his mortality. That combination of strength and mortal awareness moves me to tears every time I see it.
Danny- Here’s to walking beside you on that high road.


Frank Gormlie April 4, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Thanks Anna for bringing this forward. 43 years later Martin Luther King still inspires us, still prods us to continue “the high road to progress”, still brings tears to our eyes.


Dickie April 4, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Thanks, Anna, for a reminder of our history at its best, just before it became its worst. This speech shows how MLK, Jr. had achieved deep insight into the reality of class-based injustice as well as race-based, and, as in the speech about Viet-Nam Danny mentioned above, a deepening understanding of the relationship of this injustice at home with US policies around the world . . . oh so much worse now in the age of globalization than it was then. We have to rescue his entire legacy . . .
. . . and also I just learned of the immediate publication of a new biography of Malcolm X that sounds like it will deepen our appreciation of HIS entire life and work too. Sad irony: it was written by Manning Marable, one the great contemporary US black intellectual/activists . . . Dr. Marable passed away last Friday just days before his monumental work was to be published. Here’s a link to a discussion of both him and the Malcolm X biography:


editordude April 4, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Our friend Rocky has sent this video of King’s other speeches, including his rant against the Vietnam War:

This powerful 9 minute video excerpt from a much longer 10 hour documentary on Dr. King shows this great man’s challenge to all Americans about war and injustice. On this day, the anniversary of his assassination in Memphis; it is good yet troubling to hear his words again, unsanitized, a man of the poor and of God, with a courage seldom seen today. Be forewarned, it is no easy to listen to his words, given today’s wars, injustice and apathy. But, perhaps, we still have time to build his vision?


(video no loner available)


Ernie McCray April 5, 2011 at 2:11 pm

His vision is what I live for, what I rise everyday to achieve; it’s filled with love and intelligence and hope. It’s a blueprint for us to follow – for our own good as human beings. Keep the faith!
Thanks, Anna, for keeping our “eyes on the prize.”


Nicki Minaj January 2, 2013 at 6:23 pm

Young Money

Martin Luther KIng was as good man, his great speeches live on forever
RIP Martin ,Coretta and Yolanda King


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