We know a lot about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We know he was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi to obtain ends by non-violent resistance. We know he was the leader in a movement that revolutionalized the way generations after would think about race and the world we live in. We know he was killed on a Memphis hotel balcony on April 4, 1968.
Did you know he was only 39 when he died?
Did you know that he graduated high school when he was 15, graduated college when he was 19, and had his own congregation when he was 25?
Here are three speeches of Dr. King's that few people have read.
We think they resonate pretty well with the issues we face 40 and 50 years later. Happy reading and listening. And happy birthday to Martin Luther King, Jr.
This speech, delivered at Morehouse College in 1948 when he was 19-years-old, could easily be delivered today. King posits that education is not just about teaching skills, or giving us entry into jobs. An educated person without character, according to King, is not educated at all.
The last line, especially resonates with today: "If we are not careful, our colleges will produce a group of close-minded, unscientific, illogical propagandists, consumed with immoral acts. Be careful, 'brethren!' Be careful, teachers!"
This sermon was given at the Ebenezer Baptist Church just two months before King was killed. It's a bit long, but the link also includes audio at the top, and it's worth listening to - especially if all you've ever heard of King's voice is the I Have a Dream speech from August of 1963. King is slow and methodical, warming up to his point.
And his point, again, could pertain to today: don't let your ego get the best of you. Don't buy a car that is too expensive just so you can look good. Don't buy a house that you can't afford. Don't think you're better than somebody just because you have a PhD or a law degree.
The most chilling part is at the end. This sermon was given on Feb. 4, 1968. Two months later - exactly - King's parishoners had to heed his advice on how to mourn him.
This May 1957 speech was one of Dr. King's first in Washington, D.C. It had been three years since the Supreme Court had decided Brown vs. the Board of Educaiton, and it had still not been implemented. King castigates the other two branches of government for playing to the crowd, and not to the cause of justice - and exhorts them to give African-Americans the right to vote.
He also asks for leaders to step up from the Negro community, from moderate whites in the south, and from northern liberals - whom he asserts don't really live up to their ideals:
"There is a dire need today for a liberalism which is truly liberal. What we are witnessing today in so many northern communities is a sort of quasi-liberalism which is based on the principle of looking sympathetically at all sides. It is a liberalism so bent on seeing all sides, that it fails to become committed to either side. It is a liberalism that is so objectively analytical that it is not subjectively committed. It is a liberalism which is neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm."
This is also the speech in which King proclaimed that "the clock of destiny is ticking."