Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Justice without Violence" lecture at Brandeis


Speaker 1: Testing. One, two, three, four. Thank you.

Speaker 2: You're welcome.

Jerome Himelhoch: Will you please take your seats? We want to get started now. There are seats on this side. Were any of the guests that were invited tonight for the reception in honor of our guest, would you come forward please, anyone who is available. Even students are welcome.

Dr. Himelhoch: I think we'd better begin because this is such an important speaker that we have. We're extremely honored to have the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King as a second lecturer in the series of lectures sponsored by the Harry B. Helmsley fund.

Dr. Himelhoch: The purpose of this fund is to bring to Brandeis noteworthy personalities from every faith and creed whose message may help to promote interfaith amity and to break down the barriers that separate races, creeds, and colors. I think it's particularly fitting that in a series established by a Quaker philanthropist that we have a speaker who so perfectly represents the spirit of nonviolent resistance, brotherly love, and practical social reform which one associates with the religious Society of Friends.

Dr. Himelhoch: Dr. King, I found the same thing when I had the privilege of having dinner with him, is, I am now at the very great age where I can say, a remarkably young man. He was born just 29 years ago in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of a distinguished minister. He attended Morehouse College in Atlanta. He majored in sociology. I repeat, with obvious pride, he majored in sociology.

Dr. Himelhoch: He subsequently earned his Doctor of Divinity degree at Crozer Theological Seminary, and then he attended Boston University where he earned his Doctor of Philosophy. He is presently pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist church in Montgomery and president of the Montgomery Improvement Association which, as I'm sure you all know, has organized and led this amazing mass movement uniting the 52,000 Negroes of Montgomery in this boycott of the segregated buses, and which after a year of tremendous struggle and in the face of all types of official harassment as well as outright terrorism by fanatical white supremacy groups, won a complete victory and ended for all time the Jim Crow system in public transportation in Montgomery, Alabama, and furthermore stimulated other cities to institute similar boycotts. And furthermore these, well, in this situation there was nothing wrong with instigating, and we need more of it.

Dr. Himelhoch: Furthermore, the heroic example of these Negro citizens in Montgomery has been an important part in the far reaching social change going on throughout our society, North as well as South, which if present trends continue will lead to the complete abolition of racial segregation and of the system of caste barriers based on ethnic and racial origins.

Dr. Himelhoch: In the course of the struggle, Dr. King and his movement have resolutely refused to meet violence with violence, despite the fact that his own home has been bombed three times and four churches were bombed, that they have to live with search lights on in their house to make sure they are not going to be attacked.

Dr. Himelhoch: This remarkable movement represents a new phase in American race relations. In fact, in group conflict in America as a whole, that is, it represents the application of Gandhi's technique of nonviolent resistance and loving one's enemies as an instrument for achieving social change.

Dr. Himelhoch: Dr. King is just back from Ghana in West Africa where he participated in the ceremonies establishing the independence of this former colony, and I think this fact symbolizes the interdependence of the struggle for ethnic racial equality in the United States and the struggle for freedom from colonial domination on the part of the vast majority, at least two thirds of the human race, which is non white.

Dr. Himelhoch: Dr. King can be described as a scholar, as an exponent of nonviolence and as an idealist. I think he is showing how enormously practical a pacifist nonviolent resistance may be in effecting revolutionary social change. One might even suggest the possibility that this method and philosophy might have application to an even greater social problem, namely the problem of atomic warfare.

Dr. Himelhoch: I take great pleasure in introducing to you the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King.

Martin Luther King: Thank you so much, Dr. Himelhoch, to the president of this great university, members of the student body, ladies and gentlemen. I need not pause to say how happy I am to be here this evening and to be a part of this lecture series. I have had a great deal of admiration for Brandeis University from its very beginning, for its liberalism and for its rich academic emphasis. I will always appreciate that, and I'm sure that people all over this nation will be grateful. They are grateful now, and they will be in the future for what Brandeis is doing for the cultural life of the nation.

Martin Luther King: I am to speak this evening about the race problem in a general sense and more specifically about nonviolence. We hear a great deal about nonviolence when we speak of Montgomery, Alabama, and since I come from Montgomery, people expect me to say something about nonviolence from time to time. So this evening we are using as a subject: Justice Without Violence.

Martin Luther King: It is impossible to look out into the broad arena of American life without noticing a real crisis in the area of race relations. This crisis has been precipitated on the one hand by the determined resistance of reactionary elements in the South to the Supreme Court's momentous decision outlawing segregation in the public schools, and as you well know, this resistance has often risen to ominous proportions. Many states have risen up in open defiance, and the legislative halls of the South ring loud with such words as interposition and nullification. In many states, the Ku Klux Klan is alive again, and also in many states we find the modern version of the Ku Klux Klan in the form of so-called respectable White Citizens' Councils. And all of these forces have conjoined to make for massive resistance.

Martin Luther King: The crisis has been precipitated on the other hand, by the radical change in the Negro's evaluation of himself. It is probably true to say that there would be no crisis in race relations if the Negro thought of himself in inferior terms and patiently accepted injustice and exploitation. But it is in this area, it is precisely here that the change has come, and if we will but look at the history of the Negro in America, we will see this change in terms that are crystal clear.

Martin Luther King: It was in the year of 1619 that the first slaves landed on the shores of this nation. They were brought here from the shores of Africa. Unlike the Puritan fathers who landed at Plymouth a year later, they were brought here against their wills. Throughout slavery, the Negro was treated in a very inhuman fashion. He was a thing to be used, not a person to be respected. He was merely a depersonalized cog in the vast plantation machine.

Martin Luther King: Certainly, the famous Dred Scott decision of 1857 well illustrates the status of the Negro during slavery, for it was in this decision that the Supreme Court of the nation said in substance that the Negro is not a citizen of this nation. He is merely property subject to the dictates of his owner. Even after his emancipation in 1863 the Negro still confronted oppression and inequality. It is true that for a period while the army occupation remained in the South under reconstruction rule, the Negro enjoyed a period of imminence and political power, but he was soon overwhelmed by the white majority.

Martin Luther King: Pretty soon after that, he experienced a new kind of slavery, covered up with certain niceties of complexity. You remember in 1896 the Supreme Court came out with another decision known as the Plessy versus Ferguson decision. In this decision, the Supreme Court established the doctrine of separate but equal as the law of the land. We all know the results of the old Plessy doctrine. There was always a strict enforcement of the separate, without the slightest intention to abide by the equal. So as a result of the old Plessy doctrine, the Negro ended up being plunged across the abyss of exploitation, where he experienced the bleakness of night and despair. Living under these conditions, many Negroes lost faith in themselves. Many came to feel that perhaps they were less than human.

Martin Luther King: This is always a tragedy of physical slavery. It always ends up in the paralysis of mental slavery. And so long as the Negro accepted this place assigned to him, so long as he thought of himself in inferior terms, a sort of racial peace existed, but it was an uneasy peace. It was a negative peace. For you see, true peace is not merely the absence of some negative force. It is the presence of some positive force. Peace is not merely the absence of tension. It is the presence of justice, and the peace that existed at that time was a negative peace, an obnoxious peace, devoid of any positive meaning.

Martin Luther King: But then something happened to the Negro. Circumstances made it necessary for him to travel more. His rural plantation background was gradually being supplanted by migration to urban industrial communities. His cultural life was gradually arising through the steady decline of crippling illiteracy. Even the economic life of the Negro was gradually rising to decisive proportion. And all of these factors came together to cause the Negro to take a new look at himself.

Martin Luther King: Negro masses all over began to reevaluate themselves. The Negro came to feel that he was somebody. His religion revealed to him that God loves all of His children and that all men are made in His image. And so he came to see and to feel in his own soul, that the significant thing about a man is not his specificity, but his fundamentum, not the texture of his hair or the color of his skin, but the texture and quality of his soul.

Martin Luther King: With this new evaluation, with this new self respect, the negative peace of the nation and of the South was gradually undermined. The tension which we witness in the South land today can be explained in part by the revolutionary change in the Negro's evaluation of his nature and destiny and his determination to struggle and sacrifice and suffer until the sagging walls of segregation have finally been crushed by the battering rams of surging justice. This is the meaning of the crisis.

Martin Luther King: Now this determination on the part of American Negroes to free themselves from every form of discrimination and oppression stems from the same deep longing for human dignity and for freedom expressed by oppressed peoples all over the world. The rhythmic beat of the deep rumblings of discontent that we hear from Asia and Africa can be explained by the determination to break loose from the shackles of colonialism and imperialism and stand up with dignity and with honor.

Martin Luther King: As we face this problem, we must think of two basic facts. Whenever you have a struggle, sometimes it takes a long time to develop, and this struggle has taken a long time to develop certainly, and has been developing over the years. But let us remember this, that the struggle will continue. Why? On the one hand history seems to prove, and it seems to be sociologically true, that privileged classes do not give up their privileges without strong resistance.

Martin Luther King: It also seems to be historically and sociologically true that once oppressed people rise up against that oppression, there is no stopping point short of full freedom. So we must face the fact that the struggle will probably continue until freedom is a reality for the oppressed peoples of the world.

Martin Luther King: Now, the question that we face this evening is this. In the light of the fact that the oppressed peoples of the world are rising up against their oppression, in the light of the fact that the American Negro is rising up against his oppression. The question is this, how will the struggle for justice be waged? And I think that is one of the most important questions confronting our generation. As we move to make justice a reality on the international scale, as we move to make justice a reality in this nation, how will the struggle be waged?

Martin Luther King: It seems to me that there are two possible answers to this question. One is to use the all too prevalent method of physical violence. It is true that men throughout history have sought to achieve justice through violence. We all know the danger to this method. It seems to create many more social problems than it solves, and it seems to me that, in the struggle for justice, that this method is ultimately futile.

Martin Luther King: If the Negro succumbs to the temptation of using violence in his struggle for justice, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and his chief legacy to the future will be an endless rain of meaningless chaos. There is still a voice crying through the vistas of time, saying to every potential Peter, "Put up your sword," and history is replete with the bleached bones of nations and communities that failed to follow this command.

Martin Luther King: So let us move from this method. This is one method. This is one way to seek justice, through violence, but it seems to me that the weakness of this method is its futility. It creates many more problems than it solves.

Martin Luther King: But there is an alternative to violence. We may think of this alternative as a method of nonviolent resistance, for you see it as possible to achieve justice through nonviolence. This method has been made famous in our generation by the work of Mohandas K. Gandhi, who lived in India not many years ago, and who used this method to free his people from the political domination, the economic exploitation and humiliation inflicted upon them by Britain. He, I imagine, proved more than anybody else in the modern world that this can be an effective method in seeking justice, in seeking to break loose from oppression.

Martin Luther King: Now let us look at this method and analyze it a bit and see what it says and see if it might not be used in the midst of the crisis which we confront in race relations in America, and the crisis which we confront all over the world with oppressed people rising up against their oppression.

Martin Luther King: The first thing that we can say about this method that seeks justice without violence, is that it is not a method of power, that is a stagnant passivity. It's not a method to be used by persons filled with fear or persons who are merely lacking in weapons of violence. It is not a method of cowardice. As Mahatma Gandhi used to say, "If the only alternative is between violence and cowardice, I would say use violence," but it's good that there is another alternative.

Martin Luther King: This is not a method of cowardice, and I also said it's not a method of stagnant passivity. And sometimes the word passive misleads us because it gives the impression that this is a sort of sit down, do nothing method, the sort of a method that is non-active. But nonviolence does not mean non activity. The nonviolent resistant is just as opposed to the evil that he is protesting against as the violent resistor. This method does resist.

Martin Luther King: Now it is true that this method is passive in the sense that the nonviolent resistor is not aggressive toward his opponent in a physical sense with physical violence, but the mind and emotion are always active, at every moment seeking to convince and persuade the opponent that he is wrong. This method is passive physically but strongly active spiritually. It is non aggressive physically, but dynamically aggressive spiritually.

Martin Luther King: There is a second thing that we can say about this method that seeks justice without violence. It does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding. I think this is one of the points, one of the basic points, one of the basic distinguishing points between violence and nonviolence. The ultimate end of violence is to defeat the opponent. The ultimate end of nonviolence is to win the friendship of the opponent.

Martin Luther King: It's necessary to boycott sometimes, but the nonviolent resistor realizes that a boycott is never an end within itself. It is merely a means to awaken a sense of shame within the oppressor, but the end is reconciliation. The end is redemption. So the aftermath of violence is bitterness, but the aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community. The aftermath of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation. This is a method that seeks to transform and to redeem and win the friendship of the opponent, and make it possible for men to live together as brothers in a community and not continually live with bitterness and friction.

Martin Luther King: The third thing that we can say about this method is that it directs its attack at systems of evil rather than individuals who may be caught up in the system. In other words, this method seeks to defeat evil rather than individuals who may happen to be evil, who may happen to be victimized with evil. And this is a thing that we must see in race relations, it seems to me. As I like to say to the people in Montgomery, the tension in this city is not so much between Negro people and white people, but the tension is at bottom between justice and injustice, between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. And if there is a victory in Montgomery, it will not be a victory merely for 50,000 Negroes, but it will be a victory for justice, a victory for the forces of light, a victory for good will.

Martin Luther King: And we must come to see that the festering sword of segregation debilitates the white man as well as the Negro. It gives the Negro a false sense of inferiority and it gives the white man a false sense of superiority, thereby distorting the personality of both. And as we seek to remove the barrier of segregation, it must always be stressed that it does not serve merely to straighten up conditions for the Negro, but for all people, for all people involved in the system are affected by it. We seek to defeat the evil system rather than individuals who happen to be caught up in the system. And I think that is a vital aspect of the method of nonviolence. Violence defeats individuals and so often fails to get back to the causal factor, but nonviolence goes beneath the surface and seeks to remove the causal basis, which is the evil system itself.

Martin Luther King: That is another basic thing about this method which seeks to achieve justice through nonviolence. It not only avoids external physical violence, but also internal violence of spirit. The nonviolent resistor realizes that love should forever be at the forefront of his thinking. And as we struggle for justice, as oppressed people all over the world struggle for justice and freedom and human dignity, it is my great hope that we will never succumb to the temptation of indulging in hate campaigns or becoming bitter, for if we hate for hate, if we try to solve the problem by hating in return, we do nothing but intensify the existence of hate in the universe, and somebody has to have some sense in this world and cut off the chain of hate. And that is done through loving.

Martin Luther King: So this is a method that not only avoids external physical violence, but also internal violence of spirit, which is hate and bitterness and malice. Oppressed people must continue to fight for justice, passionately, but fight at all times with clean hands, always avoiding malice and hate and bitterness and falsehood.

Martin Luther King: I know you were looking at me and saying, somebody is saying that this is pretty difficult, to say love your enemies, love those people who seek to oppress you, love those people who are trampling over you every day. That's almost impossible, as some of you are probably saying. Well, I guess it is pretty difficult and it's pretty impossible. And I guess it's almost absurd for me to say to anybody, love those who oppress you, in any affectionate and sentimental sense. And so when I speak of love here, I'm not talking about something affectionate and sentimental. I'm talking about understanding good will for all men, a type of love that seeks to redeem.

Martin Luther King: It's very interesting. If you will notice that the Greek language has three words for love, and it might give us a little clearance at this point. The Greek language talks, for instance, about Eros. You know Plato talks about Eros in his dialogues. In platonic philosophy there's a sort of yearning of the soul for the realm of the gods. For us it has come to be a sort of a romantic love. With Plato it was an aesthetic love. With us it has become a sort of romantic love, and it's vital. Eros is a vital type of love.

Martin Luther King: We read about a beautiful portrait and it seems to express something of Eros. I guess that's what Shakespeare was talking about when he said, "Love is not love as alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove. It is an ever fixed mark that looks on tempers and is never shaken. It is a star to every wandering bark." You know, I can remember that because I used to quote it to my wife when we were courting. That's Eros.

Martin Luther King: Then the Greek talks again about phileo, a sort of, a love, the type of love that we have for personal friends, a sort of reciprocal love. And that's vital also, a love that loves because it is loved. On this level we love because we are loved. This is maybe the type of love that you have for your roommate, you see, a sort of ... This is, and it's an affectionate type of love, but here you love because you are loved. It's a reciprocal love that we have for personal friends.

Martin Luther King: But then the Greek language comes out and talks about agape. That's another interesting word. The New Testament places it as one of the highest forms of love. This is more than Eros, it's more than phileo. It's a redeeming type of love. It's a transforming type of love. Biblical theologians would say this is the love of God working in the lives of men. It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It loves everybody, not because they're particularly likable but because God loves them, and it is at this point that I think love can be very vital.

Martin Luther King: And so we come to love all men, not because they are likable, not because we like the way they act. And it's interesting that there's a passage in the Bible which says love your enemies, and I'm very happy it doesn't say like your enemies. It's pretty difficult to like some people. Like is an affectionate sort of thing. You like to be with some people. You like their attitude, you like the way they think, you like the way they act. That's an affectionate sort of thing, and you like them. But there's some, there's some people that it's pretty difficult to like. I find it rather difficult to like Senator Eastland. I find it difficult.

Martin Luther King: But there is an ethical something which says to me, love Senator Eastman, and love is greater than like. And this is what we seem to stress here when we talk about nonviolence on this level, of the eternal side where we cease not only to shoot a man but we cease to hate a man. It is a type of love that loves the individual who does the evil deed while hating the deed that the person does, and I think that when we rise to this level, nonviolence becomes quite meaningful in life.

Martin Luther King: There is a final thing that I want to say and then I will leave it with you to ask questions. That is a thing about this method that at least holds me together, and I have to stress it because I think it is very basic, at least it has been for my life. This method seems to stress the fact that the universe is on the side of justice. Sometimes it's very difficult to believe that. But this is why the nonviolent resistor can accept suffering without retaliating with violence, because he knows the universe is on the side of justice, and it gives one a great faith in the future.

Martin Luther King: The nonviolent resistor knows that in his struggle for justice, he is not alone, but that he has cosmic companionship, and that the moral laws of the universe somehow work together for the molding of justice and freedom and good will. Now I realize that there are those who believe in nonviolence who are not necessarily theists, who don't necessarily believe in a personal God. But I believe even those persons, if they believe firmly in nonviolence, believe that at least there is something that moves toward justice in the universe.

Martin Luther King: It so happens that I have deep faith and an abiding faith in a personal God, not some Aristotelian unmoved mover who merely contemplates upon himself. Not only a self knowing God, but an ever loving God who's concerned about the affairs of history, and it is my conviction that God works through history for the salvation of man, and there is something in this universe that works toward the molding of justice and good will and freedom.

Martin Luther King: There is something in this universe which justifies Carlyle in saying, "No lie can live forever." There is something in this universe which justifies William Cullen Bryant in saying, "Truth crushed to earth will rise again." There is something in this universe which justifies James Russell Lowell in saying, "True forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne. Yet that scaffold sways of future, and behind the devil known stands God within the shadow keeping watch above his own." And I'm sure that is why down in Montgomery we could walk and never get weary, because we realized that there is a great camp meeting in the promised land of freedom and justice.

Martin Luther King: And so this is a method of nonviolent resistance. And it seems to me that this is a method that can achieve justice, a method, that can achieve it without violence, a method that can bring justice into being and bring us to the point that we can all live together as brothers. And it is my deep prayer as we struggle together in Montgomery and all over the South, as people all over the world struggle for justice and freedom, they will struggle with this weapon of love and nonviolence.

Martin Luther King: It seems to me that if we will do this with dignity, with the proper attitude and the proper discipline, we will be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man's inhumanity to man to the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice. That will be the day when we can all cry, figuratively speaking, that a new day has come into being. That will be the day, figuratively speaking, when the morning stars will sing together and the sons of God will shout for joy. Thank you.

Dr. Himelhoch: Thank you Dr. King, for an inspiring and magnificent presentation of your basic philosophy. I think that, I know there are many questions which those in the audience will wish to ask. I wish to say first, however, that we have a little ceremony, that Brandeis is already enriched by a very fine alumni body and the president of the Boston chapter of the Brandeis Alumni Association, Mrs. Barbara Morse Ingber, is going to present a citation to Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King.

Barbara Morse: Thank you Dr. Himelhoch. The citation reads as follows: "In recognition of exceptional service in the field of human relations rendered by Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., brilliant scholar and inspiring preacher instilled with both the spirit and the patience of the prophets of yesterday, shepherd of a flock which cries out for leadership in a time of crisis and whose call has been answered, respected by all, admired by those who see justice in his cause, loved by his people, dedicated to the principle of equality for all man, the greater Boston chapter of the Brandeis University Alumni Association proudly presents this testimonial to its belief in his cause and the wisdom with which he has distilled it. This citation is tendered on this day of April in the year 1957."

Dr. Himelhoch: Thank you very much, Mrs Ingber. I also wish to announce that the alumni association is having a reception for Dr. King following the meeting in the commons, and all alumni and faculty are required to be ... Well, we always manage to get the faculty in on every good thing we can.

Dr. Himelhoch: Now we'll throw the floor open to questions, and I'm sure among other things that this will give us an opportunity to learn the specific instances in the case history of the Montgomery boycott which illustrate the philosophy that Dr. King has expounded. I'd like to request that you each make your questions brief so that we may have as many as possible. Just simply rise and shine.

Dr. Himelhoch: Yes, the gentlemen up there.

Speaker 6: The obvious question at this point. In the case of the Montgomery boycott…In the case of Gandhi, he was working, and you were working against a group of people which might be termed as reasonably saying…. The British may have…but still they're considered civilized people, people of good will, and you may not face so much uncertainty in the South still you have the advantage of the law on your side. I believe that the ending of the bus boycott came and the Supreme Court had ruled that segregation. The question is, what happens when you're against a group or an idea or force which will not cede to resistance, which will run you over…There are a lot of people who might in the world today. What do you do in a case like that?

Martin Luther King: Well, I assure you that you are asking one of the most difficult questions that confronts any believer in nonviolence. It's a question of whether you are an absolutist in this area or a relativist, whether you believe in the use, the using of nonviolence in every situation and every particular instance, whether you will make some allowance for situations where individuals seem to have no respect for any type of moral law or any type of ethical standard.

Martin Luther King: Frankly, I do not have the real answer to that question. I don't think I can give you the answer. I only say this, that I believe in an absolute principle of nonviolence. I start first with this premise, that violence is evil and violence is wrong, but I realize that we live in history and we live in collective social life and it's always pretty difficult to live out the absolute in our lives, so that we have to choose the best possible in many instances.

Martin Luther King: I think in Montgomery, Alabama, the best possible is absolute nonviolence, because as you say with the law on your side and even having some people of good will, white people of good will in the Montgomery community who are with us. So I would say there that violence would have not only been immoral but also impractical. I think that's true in Montgomery and some other situations.

Martin Luther King: Now Hitler emerges on the scene of reality and has no regards for the moral laws of the universe, no regards for the dignity and worth of human personality. Your question is what do you do with an individual like that? I think it's a difficult question to answer, just to say you should use violence. I don't know. I will say that it seems to me that the problem there would be which is the greatest evil involved, and we saw some pretty tragic consequences from the things that Hitler perpetrated in Germany and in the world.

Martin Luther King: I know I haven't answered the question, and I don't think I can answer it because it is a problem that I am now grappling with myself, as a professor whom I hope would say to you I raise the same question with him. We've been discussing it ourselves, and it's certainly not an easy problem. I'm not a fanatic about nonviolence. I try to take all factors under consideration.

Martin Luther King: I believe a man is pretty good, but I also think he can be pretty bad sometimes, and my anthropology is not based on a superficial optimism nor a deadening pessimism. I try to be realistic enough to see that although man is made in the image of God so to speak, he has good points and he can be good and achieve the highest moral law. He also has potentialities for evil, and I don't think we can overlook these points and I think pacifists have often been unrealistic about human nature and about the tragic possibilities and the evils that we can fall into. I'm sorry, I haven't answered your question, but that's the best I can do.

Dr. Himelhoch: Gentleman there.

Speaker 7: Dr. King, at the recent Communist Party convention in New York City, a motion was passed to the effect that a Communist effort would be included in the South to take over or direct the Negro movement in the South and they made a point wherein that violence would be used to the Communist advantage. Now, what is the opening which you personally and your movement can use to avoid falling under the Communist movement and thereby turning mass popular opinion from your movement?

Martin Luther King: I think-

Speaker 8: Question please.

Speaker 2: To rephrase the question, I gather ... Somebody's sabotaging this. Anybody of the White Citizens' Council here? I gather the question is how in view of the speaker's report of the Communist intention to capture the struggle for Negro rights in the South, how do you prevent their infiltrating your movement? Is that it?

Martin Luther King: This is always a pretty difficult problem, and I'm sure most movements confront the problem, that is movements in this area, movements working for the improvement of conditions, race relations, economic conditions, and it's pretty difficult to deal with it because people can come in and say they are, they want to help and act very friendly, and you later discover that you have a person on hand that might be working to the disadvantage of the whole movement.

Martin Luther King: I think one of the things that we have to do is to be on guard, and we have said this in the Montgomery Improvement Association, to be on guard at all times. That is when the people come in, and we have had people from all over the nation coming in and making very helpful suggestions and working in a very helpful spirit, a very noble spirit. And I think on the whole all of them have had good intentions. But we have said that we must be careful that we don't get the wrong people in the situation and they turn out to be Communists with the idea of working up violence to their own advantage.

Martin Luther King: So about the only thing that can be done is to investigate. I don't mean investigate in the McCarthy sense, but I mean to be pretty careful about persons who come in to help, and continually keep the philosophy of nonviolence before the people and before anyone who comes in the community, and always have a pretty good idea of who the person is that's coming in, what organization this person represents, and not have individuals coming in the community seeking to help and it turns out that they are not really out to solve the problem, not to solve the problem in the way and the spirit that we would solve it. That's about all we can do I think, and we are taking all the precautionary measures that we possibly can in our association.

Dr. Himelhoch:  Gentleman in the very far back, way, way back. Or lady, I can't see. Wait. Speak up loudly please.

Speaker 9: I wonder if it's wise and it seems to me as a distant observer that the constant opposition to the opposition it would be more obtaining legal equality rather than obtaining what I would consider social justice. I'm asking this in regards to what the basic game is, because I feel that looking at the conditions in the North, especially in the large cities, there is legal equality…

Dr. Himelhoch: The question from that very distant observer was, is the goal of your movement to achieve mere legal equality such as we have achieved in the North, or is it to go perhaps beyond that to an achievement of full social justice, which we certainly do not have in race relations in the North?

Dr. Himelhoch: (silence)

Dr. Himelhoch: The question from that very distant observer was, is the goal of your movement to achieve mere legal equality such as we have achieved in the North, or is it to go perhaps beyond that to an achievement of full social justice, which we certainly do not have in race relations in the North?

Martin Luther King: I would say that the ultimate aim of the movement is to achieve equality, or social equality, to use your phrase. That is not merely to get the law changed, but also to change the hearts of men and women. Now I think it's necessary to have both. I think we need the legal, we've got to remove the legal barriers as well as work in the area of trying to get the hearts changed. I would not exclude the legal, but I would say the ultimate aim is to bring people together in understanding good will so that they live together as brothers and that they live together in understanding good will.

Martin Luther King: Now it is true that legalism cannot totally solve the problem. The law does not. So it certainly doesn't change attitudes so much as regulate behavior. And I don't think that's a, the thing, we aren't trying through the laws so much to change the attitudes, we are trying to regulate behavior.

Martin Luther King: You see, it is true that maybe we can't legislate morals. I think there's probably some truth in that. and that isn't what we're trying to do through the law. And frankly, I don't want to wait until all the…get ripe before people start treating me right down in Alabama. It might take too long. So that we want to try to get the laws right, and it will kind of control that.

Martin Luther King: The law does not necessarily change one's internal feelings, but it controls the external effects of those internal feelings. The law can't make a man love me. Religion and education will have to do that, but it can control his desire to lynch me. And that's what we try to do through the law.

Martin Luther King: Now we want to go beyond that however, and bring men together, not merely desegregate, but integrate, bring men together in understanding good will. And I would say that is the ultimate aim of our movement. And I'm sure all of the people working for social justice would say the same thing.

Dr. Himelhoch: The gentleman in the balcony over on the side.

Speaker 10: I was wondering aside from the colonial situation, where in international affairs would the doctrine of nonviolence be applicable?

Dr. Himelhoch: Aside from the colonial situation, where in international affairs would the doctrine of nonviolence be applicable?

Martin Luther King: Well, I don't know. I hope we will learn in our civilization, in Western civilization and all over the world to apply it in international affairs, not merely in the local conditions within a nation with colonial conditions where one nation comes in and oppresses another. I hope we will have sense enough to apply it in international affairs one day. I used to feel that war, for instance on the international scale could serve as a sort of negative good. I've never believed that war was a positive good and I've never known of many wars where you didn't have some blame on both sides. Maybe it was greater on one side, but some on both.

Martin Luther King: But I felt that maybe war could serve as a negative, if there's any such thing as a negative good, that is to block an evil force. But it's getting to the place now where I'm wondering if it can serve as a negative good because with the power of atomic and hydrogen bombs and all of that, I just don't see, we've got to come to the point that we see where this whole process is senseless, and someone will have to bring about the initiative at this point, and I think somewhere in international affairs, men will have to come to see that all of this arming and all of the spending all of this money for weapons and atomic bombs and hydrogen bombs is a senseless process, and that we will eventually destroy ourselves and our whole civilization.

Martin Luther King: Now if you say, if you think of nonviolence in the sense that it's used in colonial situations, there might be some difference. If a nation just starts out in an aggressive sense and stops a war, that's different. But I mean even in the process of getting ready for this thing, I think we can be a little more nonviolent. We are, we are just violent, getting ready for war all the time, and somewhere I think we ought to, we ought to get together and solve this thing on the basis of understanding and over the peace table and through the U N rather than continually arming.

Martin Luther King: We've got to disarm the whole world and move on toward brotherhood and understanding, and even though we have some conflicts and misunderstandings come together on a broader level, because if we don't do it we are going to destroy ourselves. The question is now nonviolence or non life almost, and non survival of our civilization, so that I think somewhere we've got to do that. It might sound impractical, but I think it, it's something of the survival of our civilization. I think it's involved in this very question so that we must apply it on the international scale if we are to survive.

Dr. Himelhoch: I'd like to take the liberty, Dr. King, of getting one question in myself. I'd like to ask you whether you would be kind enough, you've been so modest as not to give us so many of these tremendously dramatic autobiographical episodes that I know about. I wonder if you could illustrate the application of nonviolence in this very dramatic incident where a bomb had just been exploded. I believe it was in your living room, and the mayor and the chief of police, if I understand correctly, had rushed to the house in response to a call of an alarm. A large crowd of your followers, of Negros had gathered outside, and the lives of these white officers were in immediate jeopardy, and that you in effect, if the story as I understand it was correct, saved their lives. I would like to, if you would describe this episode. I've done the unpardonable, which I didn't intend to ask questions, but I wonder if you would fill it in, the true story, what really happened, to correct the view I got in the journalistic accounts.

Martin Luther King: Well, to put it in its setting, the situation took place last January, or not last January, but January of '56, and that was just a few weeks after we started the protest in Montgomery. I was attending a meeting, one of our weekly mass meetings, and I got the word in the church that our home had been bombed. My wife was there, and the baby and another friend, a friend of my wife, they were sitting in the living room. The baby was in the back room. They heard the bomb or they heard the noise and thought it was just something of a brick, something on the porch because it made that type of noise, and luckily they jumped up and ran to the back of the house. If they had stayed there or gone to the window to see it could have been fatal, but they went to the back and the bomb exploded, and after exploding, it did a great deal of damage in the front of the house.

Martin Luther King: But anyway, I discovered that this had taken place at the church in the meeting that I was attending, and before leaving the church, I stressed the necessity of our remaining calm and not getting panicky because I knew that the situation was pretty tense at that time. I immediately went to the house and when I got there, hundreds of people were standing in front of the house. I went on in the house and saw that the family was doing all right.

Martin Luther King: And when I got there, the mayor of the city was there as well as the police commissioner. Montgomery has three commissioners, the mayor and two associate commissioners, and the mayor and one of the associate commissioners who happens to be the police commissioner was there when I got there, and other reporters. Well, when I got in the house, I found them there and I discovered that they were a little afraid to go back out through the crowd because I imagine some 800 or 1,000 persons were standing out there.

Martin Luther King: It was a tense moment, and the people I think were well armed. They were not too nonviolent that night, and it could have been a difficult, an explosive situation. It could have caused the race riot right there, that evening. One of the officials said to me that if a Negro had stubbed his toe that night or just stumbled over a brick, anything, that would've been a riot, because he would have felt that a white person pushed him. One of the white policemen. And it was that type of situation.

Martin Luther King: And I felt when I got there and I saw the situation as it was, that something had to be done. And naturally we had to think and pray hard at that moment. And it was at that time that I went out to the porch and gave my message in the best way I knew how of love and nonviolence, and that we must remain calm, and that we must put up our guns and go home, and not get panicky, but remain on the high level of love that had characterized the movement from the beginning and let nothing happen to harm anybody, even though that person seeks to harm us.

Martin Luther King: And at that time the people went home. And I think it was very good that that happened because it could have destroyed our whole movement if we had indulged in violence at that time. So that's about all that I can say about that particular incident. I think that's the extent of it.

Dr. Himelhoch: Gentleman there.

Speaker 11: What would you do if you were in South Africa today?

Dr. Himelhoch: What would you do if you were in South Africa today?

Martin Luther King: I would do what they are doing in South Africa today. They are boycotting the buses.

Martin Luther King: Seriously though, South Africa presents probably the most difficult situation in the world today. I'm quite conscious of that. I talked last week over in Ghana and also in London last week with people from South Africa who are quite familiar with the South African situation, and I came away fearing and knowing that it's probably the most difficult situation in the world.

Martin Luther King: However, I think I would advise South Africa, the people in South Africa, the oppressed people of South Africa, to use nonviolence. I would say that such nonviolent methods as the type of thing that's being done now. The bus protests, the bus boycott. And I understand it is very effective and actually has the government a little afraid, because it's extending to other areas. And I think it's going to take something like this to break the backbone. I'm not speaking of it in a physical sense, but I mean the backbone of power and oppression in South Africa.

Martin Luther King: It certainly would be immorally ... I start on that as I said, but it would be impractical for the oppressed people of South Africa to use violence. They don't have the instruments, the weapons, the techniques, or anything. But they do have a technique. They do have a method that all human beings can have, and that is the method of love, the power of resistance without bounds.

Martin Luther King: And I think if the people there can do that, if they can stand up with this type of unity, it will do something. And this is the type of thing I think that nonviolence is. Maybe some people will have to die, maybe some will get killed. But this amazing unity, this profound self-respect, this willingness to suffer and this refusal to hit back will soon cause the oppressor to become ashamed of his own methods. And they will leave him standing before the world and their God splattered with the blood and reeking with the stench of that Negro brothers.

Martin Luther King: I think this is the only answer. It might lead some to physical death, but if physical death is the price that some must pay to free themselves and their children from a permanent life of psychological death, then nothing could be more honorable. And I think if they can stand down nonviolently, refusing to hate and be bitter, they will eventually break the backbone of the power of the rulership in South Africa and world opinion will also be a part. It will increase world opinion. They already have world opinion on their side and it will make it even stronger. That would be my advice to South Africa.

Dr. Himelhoch: I have a question, Dr. King, from the overflow audience in one of the rooms that are hearing this also. The question was, when you were in Ghana and met Richard Nixon, what did you and he say to each other?

Martin Luther King: Well naturally, I was very happy to meet the Vice President, although I had to go more than 6,000 miles to meet him. We talked about some public things. When I say public things, those are things that you can say in the public. I met Mr. Nixon first in a very brief, after the convocation at the University…I had never met him before. That was the first meeting. He came up in a very friendly manner and said, "I recognize you from your picture on Time Magazine." And I discovered that he had read the article because he remembered some of the minute details of the article. We talked about that.

Martin Luther King: And then toward the end of the conversation he asked me to come to Washington, that he wanted to talk with me about some very vital matters, and I immediately accepted the invitation. I decided that I wouldn't, all of the reporters were trying to get me to put the Vice President on the spot by saying, "Well, why don't you come South? You know, we've been asking you to do that." But I didn't feel that, there's a time and place for that. I think if you believe in nonviolence, you have to push it into every area, and that at times you don't put people on the spot. You help people to saves face sometimes. And I didn't want to put the Vice President on the spot, so I didn't even mention our situation in Montgomery and the South. I didn't ask him why he hadn't answered my telegram and that type of thing, but I did say, I did accept the invitation.

Martin Luther King: And of course later that night we met again for a long talk, and of course I wouldn't like to divulge the things we discussed that evening. I might say one thing however that he said, I don't believe he would mind my quoting this. He said he believes firmly that some form of civil rights bill will be passed in this session of Congress, and I hope his prediction is true since he knows the Senate. He has worked with it for many years and presides over it many times. He should know. He did make that prediction. Of course, as I read the papers and see how the Southern Dixiecrats are organizing and working and stalling things, I'm getting kind of wary about the prediction, but I hope he's right about that.

Martin Luther King: I might say about the vice president, although I have no way shared his political tactics. He is learning and he's growing. I say that very sincerely. I think Mr. Nixon is growing. Now, many of you, I'm sure many of you will feel that he's already grown and he doesn't need to grow, but I thought he needed to grow a little. And he does an excellent job in the area of an ambassador of good will. He knows when to say what and he knows exactly what to do.

Dr. Himelhoch: I have a question from the other room. What organization or institution is most effective in promoting your nonviolent method of resistance?

Martin Luther King: I'm not sure if I understand that. What organization ... ?

Dr. Himelhoch: Or institution is most effective in promoting your nonviolent method of resistance?

Martin Luther King: Well, I would say, if I understand the question, I hope I am understanding it, that if the church, if religious bodies will take their responsibility seriously, the ethical foundations upon which they are founded, then this is the organization that should give the nonviolent approach the greatest backing, the greatest support, and instill it in the minds of people all over the world. It seems to me that if the church, whether it be the Christian church, whether it be other religions, if the church itself will take a stand, if religion will take a definite stand on the question of nonviolence and seek to promote it, the problem of international war would be solved tomorrow.

Martin Luther King: It seems to me that the church has never taken the type of stand at this point, the type of affirmative stand that it should take. I'm speaking of the church as an organized body now. Now it stands, it seems to me at the center of the ethical thinking of the church, certainly at the very foundation, at the very basis of our brave Christian tradition is the principle of the worth and dignity of all human personality.

Martin Luther King: And if that follows through, if we love human personality, respect the dignity and worth of human personality, we don't kill human personality. And it seems to me that if religion takes this stand and pushes this doctrine forth and perpetuates it throughout the world, we can solve the problem of international war.

Dr. Himelhoch: Gentlemen to the, right there.

Speaker 12: Dr. King, have you found that your legal battles, legal victories in Montgomery are rather than leading to this good will between the races that you speak about, has led to perhaps an irreparable breach between the races, in fact widening the abyss more than it had ever existed before. Do you think that this happened?

Dr. Himelhoch: Has the legal victory won in the South created an irreparable breach between the races?

Martin Luther King: I would like to start answering that question by saying the initial response of the oppressor when the oppressed decides to rise up, is bitterness. That's the initial response, and I think what we are experiencing in the South now is the necessary pain that goes along with the transition. It is true that we are facing tension in the South now that the channels of communication are closed. That's quite true. By and large I would say there is some communication, but by and large the channels of communication are closed.

Martin Luther King: But that is because we are in this period of transition, and it seems to be both historically and biologically true that there can be no birth and growth without birth and growing pains, and philosophers all the way from Heraclitus of Greek philosophy to Hegel of modern philosophy have stressed the that growth comes through struggle.

Martin Luther King: And it might be that we are experiencing this natural phase of the transition which brings this period of bitterness, but I don't think it's going to stay always. I like the Negro spiritual, which says, "I'm so glad that trouble don't last always." And I think it's a great deal of truth in that, that this is the shock period, but pretty soon we will have solved the shock and go on and understand that to revolt against this move, this surge toward integration is to stand against an irresistible tidal wave, and men will come to see that that cannot be done. So to answer the question specifically, it has made for some temporary setbacks. I would agree with that. But this is a natural phase of the transition, and it means now that for the first time the old order is coming face to face with the new order.

Martin Luther King: And I think that is what is happening in the South. And wherever you have the emergence of the new, there is the recalcitrance of the old, but it doesn't mean that it's going to stay that way always. And I think we are just in the shock period, which will pass away pretty soon and then we will be able to work out these things together in a spirit of understanding, good will and brotherhood, which will cause all of the people of the South to finally accept these decisions as the law of the land and as based in high moral principles.

Dr. Himelhoch: Gentleman over there.

Speaker 13: Dr. King, you speak quite idealistically about the love that you hope will be generated between the white and the black in the South. Now practically speaking, sir, do you believe that the white people who will, in sections where they are outnumbered, will ever reach a state of brotherly love with the Negro, where they face the economic and political control of the Negro?

Dr. Himelhoch: Do you believe in areas where the whites are in a minority, they will ever show, complete brotherly love for the Negro?

Martin Luther King: Well, definitely, I do believe that. I have to believe that if I believe that the problem itself can be solved, and that being one phase of the problem, I must believe that that can exist. It seems to me that one of the big problems in the South is this. As I said to somebody the other day, I've come to see now that my problem and the problem of all people struggling for freedom, so to speak, the problem now isn't so much to free the Negro from the bondage of segregation, although that's a phase of it, but to free the white man from his fears concerning the Negro. And you know that all of these fears that we find in the South, and people, the hate groups tend to accentuate these fears. And I think we have a responsibility to free our white brothers from all of these fears.

Martin Luther King: It's something like, if I could use an analogy, and like all human analogies it has its limitations. But let's think of a child growing up, and here is somebody here, much larger, older and everything else, continually trampling over the child, beating the child and never respecting the child and just continually doing that.

Martin Luther King: And then one day this grown person wakes up and discovers that this one time child is now as big as he is. And his first thought is that this child that's now grown and big as he is, is going to retaliate and do everything to him that he can to pay him back for what he's done to him. And I think we must get it over to the Southern white man that we are not concerned about paying you back or retaliating, but all we're concerned about is living in a society where we can all live together as brothers.

Martin Luther King: And I think once we break, I mean once we do something about removing these fears, I think we can go a long, long way in solving the problem. You see, the Negro is now at least grown to a certain extent. He's growing up politically, socially, and economically, and now the white South looks around and sees this and all of the fears break out, and the sense of guilt with that. That is why we hear so much about miscegenation, about mongrelization of the races. All of the fears began to break out, and we've just got to get it over in the South that our aim is not to be the white man's brother-in-law, but his brother. [inaudible 01:34:40]

Dr. Himelhoch: All right, this gentleman right here.

Speaker 14: I was just about to ask Dr. King one of the questions concerning, what are some of the objective contributions that the Negro may offer to bring about the ultimate aim of freedom?

Dr. Himelhoch: What are some of the objective contributions the Negro may offer to bring about the ultimate aim of freedom?

Martin Luther King: I'm not sure. If you could explain just exactly what you mean by…

Speaker 14: Well, I know that we have some of the responsibility of freedom and the contributions to freedom rest on our shoulders as well as our white brother. So I wanted to know what are some of the imperatives, objectives, contributions that we may offer.

Martin Luther King: Well, I think one I just mentioned, to help as much as we can and work as much as we can toward the removing fears that our white brothers have concerning the Negro and concerning integration. I think the other thing is this, that we must work on two fronts as a race because we confront, unfortunately, two situations. We have an objective external force out here called segregation. It is a causal factor, so to speak. It is a cause of the injustices and dignities that we have suffered for so many years. But this objective external factor called segregation has produced certain effects. It has caused, for instance, economic inequality. It has caused voting inequality. It has caused lags in certain standards, cultural standards, and even moral standards at times. These are the effects of segregation.

Martin Luther King: Now we must seek at all times to remove the causal factor. We've got to do that, but we must also work with these effects, and I think that this is one of the areas that we can work in. As we work to remove the causal factor, we must work to improve these standards here so that when the causal factor is finally removed, we will be totally ready. And I don't like to use that word ready because it gives the wrong impression sometimes, but I'm using it in a higher sense than my Southern…use it in the sense of gradualism, because it is my firm conviction that it is a sort of torturous logic to use the tragic results of segregation as an argument for the continuation of it.

Martin Luther King: The fact that some of these standards lag behind, well they are behind because of segregation, that's the causal factor. So that segregation shouldn't be continued because these things are here. But what I am saying is that as we work to remove these factors, we must work to lift the economic standards of the race, the health standards, the cultural and educational standard and all of these things.

Dr. Himelhoch: I'm going to call a conclusion…One word we received from outside. Before I do that I wanted….

Dr. Himelhoch: (silence)

Dr. Himelhoch: I might just insert, if I may, Dr. King. The news that, before you answer that, the news has come to me that some students, I understand, are interested in forming a group to collect money to aid the people in the Southern communities, Negro groups who are conducting these boycotts and other kinds of struggles and who are so much in need of funds, funds which have been coming from all over the world, and I've been told that some Brandeis students are interested in doing this as well, and speaking purely personally, it would seem to me this is one concrete thing that could be done. Now I'll turn the answer to the major question to Dr King.

Martin Luther King: Thank you for that. I'm very happy to know of this idea, the fact that a group from this university plans to raise funds for the struggle in the South, and I would follow by saying that this is one of the real needs. We will confront many economic responsibilities and problems as we move on. It's an expensive thing to gain freedom. Freedom is never given on a silver platter. People have to work and sacrifice for, and give money in order to make it possible.

Martin Luther King: It seems to be the strategy now of the White Citizens' Councils to delay this thing as long as possible. They know as well as we all know that segregation is on its deathbed, but they feel that they can delay it a long time by keeping the Negro bogged down in litigation. As one of the attorney generals of the South said, we are ready and prepared for a century of litigation, and in order to block this stalling process, we're going to have to do a great deal. We still have battles in the courts to fight. We're going to have to need, we're going to need money to do it. And the whole problem of voting is still a problem in the South. We're going to need money to carry on in that area. So many areas. So I would say the financial is a great area.

Martin Luther King: It seems to me that another area is that of seeking through certain methods of persuasion. I don't know exactly what methods to suggest, but there are various methods to get over to our Congress the importance of this whole move toward integration. There is a bit of urgency about it. The hour's getting late and we must decide whether we are going to be half segregated and half integrated, as Abraham Lincoln decided years ago. We can't be half slave and half free. We must decide whether we would remain, half segregated and half integrated.

Martin Luther King: We really can't do it, and I think we can speed it up if we gain the support from branches of the government which stand in important and indecisive positions. The situation which we now face is that the judicial branch of the government seems to be fighting the battle alone, and what we need is that the executive and legislative branches of the government will set out to implement the laws of the land, use all of their moral persuasion and constitutional power to implement the laws of the land.

Martin Luther King: Now one of our stresses is that this isn't done by the Southern Dixiecrats only. It isn't done by the, don't think the Southern Dixiecrats could defeat everything by themselves, just a few of them. The problem is that the coalition of Southern Dixiecrats and right wing Northern Republicans defeats almost every liberal move in the area of civil rights and human dignity, and I think we have a responsibility, you in the North to demand that your senators, your congressmen take a positive stand.

Martin Luther King: Flood them out with mail and with letters, create a climate of public opinion and let the world know that you are with the moral forces of good will. And I think that will do a great deal to block the loud noises that we hear from the South land, from the rabble rousers and the reactionaries, for it's my firm conviction that they constitute a numerical minority. And we're going to need all of the pressure and all of the persuasion that we can to defeat all of their tactics, their delaying tactics and the methods that they're using to block the law of the land.

Dr. Himelhoch: On behalf of the president of the university and the trustees and the student body, I want to thank you, Dr. King, for a most inspiring evening, letting us get a good insight into the history and process and clarifying for us both the moral and strategic aspects of this struggle for human dignity.