The conventional media image of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has him frozen in time at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963 giving his inspirational “I Have a Dream” speech. Little attention is paid to King’s remarkable political and social evolution in the last five years of his life. He became a trenchant critic of the Vietnam War. In his classic sermon at the Riverside Church in New York he denounced the war and “the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism.” King increasingly saw the link between economic justice and racial equality and insisted that one was impossible without the other. His final days were spent in Memphis where he was actively supporting a strike by black sanitation workers and he was planning to launch a poor people’s march on Washington, DC. An assassin’s bullet ended his life on April 4, 1968.
Julianne Malveaux is an economist and political commentator. Her articles appear in leading newspapers and magazines. She has taught and lectured at major colleges and universities. She is the author of “Sex, Lies and Stereotypes,” “Wall Street, Main Street and the Side Street,” and “Surviving and Thriving.”