MLK: In His Own Words
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As the world honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we revisit the legacy of his speeches and sermons.
‣ While King’s speeches may be more famous, his sermons were where he explained the framework for nonviolent resistance.
A Gift of Love collects 16 of these homilies, some of which King wrote from jail after his arrest at a prayer vigil in Albany, New York.
In “Loving Your Enemies,” King explains the need for—and the path to—unconditional love. Making a case that appeals to our reason and our spirit, he shows step by step how to arrive at this understanding.
Telling a story about how Abraham Lincoln was able to speak kindly of the South during the Civil War, King quotes the former president: “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”
‣ Many of King’s speeches—from “I Have a Dream” to “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”—are available in audiobook form. King’s “Eulogy for the Young Victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing” has a particular resonance today.
Delivered on September 18, 1963, the speech memorialized the girls who died when Ku Klux Klan members set off a bomb in a Birmingham, Alabama, church during Sunday service.
In the aftermath, King preached understanding, encouraging the congregation not to retaliate, nor to “lose faith in our white brothers.”
‣ At once elegiac and urgent, the documentary King in the Wilderness draws on archival footage and photographs, recorded phone calls between King and President Lyndon B. Johnson, and interviews with King’s contemporaries.
The film makes unmistakably clear the Herculean tasks King faced—and just how revolutionary his approach was.
“The nonviolent approach is radical—radical enough to believe that, under the worst conditions, there’s hope,” Bernard Lafayette, an organizer who was part of King’s inner circle, says in the film. “It’s radical enough to believe that people who display some of the most insensitive kind of attitudes can be changed.”
King is easily canonized. This documentary shows him to be undeniably human—which makes his lifelong efforts all the more inspiring.