martin luther king's 1965 speech at penn state

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  • 8/9/2019 Martin Luther King's 1965 speech at Penn State



    On Jan. 21, 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. spoe to an esti!ated crowd o"#,$$$ peop%e in &ecreation 'ui%ding on the (enn State )ni*ersit+ (arca!pus. e ta%ed a-out the ci*i% rights !o*e!ent, !erica/s %egac+

    o" s%a*er+ and segregation and the princip%es he -e%ie*ed wou%dchange the wor%d. 0he e*ent was co!!e!orated in 2$$6 with ahistorica% !arer p%aced outside o" &ec a%%. is speech "o%%ows:

    Dean [Jules] Heller [of the Department of Arts and Architecture],members of the faculty and members of the student body of this greatinstitution of learning, ladies and gentlemen.

    I did not pause to say how delighted and honored to be here tonightand to be part of your lecture series. It's always a rich and rewardingeperience when I can ta!e a brief brea! from the day"to"day demands

    of our struggle for freedom and human dignity and discuss the issuesin#ol#ed in that struggle with college and uni#ersity students andconcerned people of goodwill all o#er our nation and o#er the world. $oI can assure you it's a real pleasure to be with you.

    As has been stated, I would li!e to use as a sub%ect from which tospea! the future of integration. &y basic theme for the e#ening is thatwe ha#e come a long, long way in the struggle for racial %ustice, but weha#e a long, long way to go before the problem is sol#ed.

    ow let us begin by noticing that we ha#e come a long, long way. I

    would li!e to open this point by stating that the egro himself hascome a long, long way in ree#aluating his own intrinsic worth. In orderto illustrate this, a little history is necessary. (ou will remember that itwas in the year )*)+ when the rst egro sla#es landed on the shoresof this nation. -hey were brought here from the shores of Africa. nli!ethe /ilgrims fathers who landed at /lymouth a year

    -hroughout sla#ery, the egro was treated in a #ery inhuman fashion.He was a thing to be used, not a person to be respected. -he famousDred $cott decision of )012 well illustrated the status of the egroduring sla#ery. In this decision, the $upreme 3ourt said in substance

    that the egro is not a citi4en of the nited $tates5 he is merelyproperty, sub%ect to the dictates of his owner. And it went on to saythat the egro has no rights that the white man is bound to respect.

    6ith the growth of sla#ery it became necessary to gi#e some%ustication for it. It seems to be a fact of life that human beingscannot continue to do wrong without e#entually reaching out for somethin rationali4ation to clothe an ob#ious wrong in the beautiful

  • 8/9/2019 Martin Luther King's 1965 speech at Penn State


    garments of righteousness. -his is eactly what happened. 7#en the8ible and religion was misused to crystalli4e the patterns of the status9uo. And so from some pulpits it was argued that the egro is inferiorby nature because of oah's curse upon the children of Ham. And theapostle /aul's dictum became a watchword: ;$er#ants, be obedient to

    your master.; And then one brother had probably read the logic of thegreat philosopher Aristotle. Aristotle did a great deal to bring into beingwhat we !now as pharmacological philosophy. And in pharmacologicyou ha#e a big word called the syllogism, which has a ma%or premiseand a minor premise and a conclusion. And so this brother decided toput his argument of the inferiority of the egro in the framewor! of anAristotelian syllogism. He came out with his ma%or premise, all men arecreated in the image of

  • 8/9/2019 Martin Luther King's 1965 speech at Penn State


    >ifty years ago or e#en @1 years ago, a year had hardly passed whennumerous egroes were not brutally lynched in the $outh by some#icious mob. =ynchings ha#e about ceased today, and this representsprogress. At the turn of the century, there were #ery few egroesregistered to #ote in the $outh. 8y )+0 that number had leaped to

    21B,BBB. 8y )+*B, it had leaped to about ).@ million. And when wewent into the presidential elections some few wee!s ago, we had a fewmore than @ million egroes registered to #ote in the $outh, whichmeans we ha#e added more than 0BB,BBB new egro registered #otersin the last three or four years, far from what it ought to be, but itrepresents progress. 6e'#e come a long, long way.

    In the area of economic %ustice we ha#e seen some strides. -hea#erage egro wage"earner of today who happens to be employedearns )B times more than the a#erage egro wage"earner of )B yearsago. -he national income of the egro is now better than C@0 billion a

    year, which is more than all of the eports of the nited $tates andmore than the national budget of 3anada. -his re#eals that we ha#emade some strides in the 9uest for economic %ustice.

    8ut probably more than in any other area, we ha#e seen in our day andin our age the gradual demise of the system of legal segregation. ow,we all !now the long history of segregation in our country. It had itslegal beginning in )0+*, when the $upreme 3ourt rendered a decision!nown as the /lessy #. >erguson decision, which established thedoctrine of separate but e9ual as the law of the land. And for years weha#e li#ed with this /lessy doctrine, which ended up plunging the

    egro into the abyss of eploitation, where he eperienced theblea!ness of nagging in%ustice. -hen something else happened. It wasin the year )+1 that the $upreme 3ourt eamined the legal body ofsegregation and pronounced it constitutionally dead, and said insubstance that the old /lessy doctrine must go, that separate facilitiesare inherently une9ual, and that to segregate a child a child on thebasis of his race is to deny that child e9ual protection of the law. 6eha#e seen many, many changes since that decision in )+1.

    And then %ust last year, on July @, the president of out nation signedinto law a strong, comprehensi#e ci#il rights bill. I am happy to say that

    since the signing of that bill, we ha#e seen surprising and etensi#ele#els of compliance all across the $outh, particularly in with referenceto the public accommodations section of the bill. 3ertainly there arestill some poc!ets of resistance, where we will ha#e to do a great dealof wor!. 6e can all be consoled by the fact that by and large, in citiesand communities and states all across the south, ha#e responded tothe ci#il rights bill with ama4ing good sense and reasonableness. -hisre#eals that we ha#e come a long, long way. And I am absolutely

  • 8/9/2019 Martin Luther King's 1965 speech at Penn State


    con#inced that the system of segregation is on its deathbed today, andthe only thing uncertain about it is how costly is how costly thesegregationists will ma!e the funeral. 6e ha#e come a long, long waysince )0+*.

    ow, this would be a #ery ne and good place for me to end myspeech tonight. >irst, it would mean ma!ing a short speech, and thiswould be a magnicent accomplishment for a 8aptist preacher.$econd, it would mean that the problem is almost sol#ed now and thatwe don't ha#e much to do. It would be a mar#elous thing if spea!ers allo#er our country could tal! about this problem in terms of the problemthat once eisted but that no longer has eistence. 8ut if I stopped atthis point, I would be merely be stating a fact and not telling the truth.(ou !now, a fact is merely the absence of contradiction but truth is thepresence of coherence. -ruth is the relatedness of facts. ow, it is afact that we ha#e come a long, long way, but it isn't the whole truth,

    and I am afraid that if I stop at this point, I would lea#e you the #ictimsof a dangerous optimism and I will send you away #ictimi4ed with anillusion wrapped in superciality. $o in order to tell the truth it isnecessary to mo#e on and not only say that we'#e come a long, longway, but we ha#e a long, long way to go before the problem of racialin%ustice is sol#ed.

    I don't thin! I ha#e to point this out too much. 6e need only open ournewspapers and turn on our tele#isions, and we see with our own eyesthat this problem is still with us. 6e can loo! around in ourcommunities, where#er we li#e, and we will see it because no

    community in our country can boast of clean hands in the area ofbrotherhood, and so if we will only loo!, we will only notice thede#elopments in our nation, we will be ob%ecti#e enough and realisticenough and honest enough to !now that we ha#e a long, long way togo.

    I mentioned that lynchings ha#e about ceased, but other things arehappening %ust as tragic. 3i#il rights wor!ers are still being brutallymurdered, simply because they are wor!ing for the ideals of %usticeand freedom. And we can ne#er forget the fact, that not too long ago,four beautiful innocent, uno?ending girls, egro girls, were !illed in the

    church of

  • 8/9/2019 Martin Luther King's 1965 speech at Penn State


    Down in &ississippi now they seem to ha#e a new motto, not ;attendthe church of your choice; but ;burn the church of your choice.; $ince&ay of last year, more than 1 egro churches ha#e burned down inthe state of &ississippi. -his re#eals that we are far from the goal offreedom, far from the goal of brotherhood.

    I mentioned #oter registration and the fact that we ha#e about @million egroes registered to #ote in the $outh, and I guess this loo!sgood on the surface, but we must see the other side. -here are stillapproimately )B million egroes still li#ing in the $outh, and about *million are of #oting age. -his means that there are million egroesin the southern part of the nited $tates who are not registered to #oteas #oters. It is not merely because of apathy and complacency hereand there. &any of these persons are not registered because all typesof conni#ing methods are still being used to !eep the egro frombecoming a regi