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1964-03-18 Interview with Martin Luther King, Jr., March 18, 1964 RPWCR001:02OH108RPWCR03 00:52:08 Robert Penn Warren Civil Rights Oral History Project Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries King, Martin Luther, Jr. 1929-1968—Interviews Southern Christian Leadership Conference National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Congress of Racial Equality Black nationalism African Americans--Race identity African Americans--Cultural assimilation Civil rights movements African American--Civil rights Nonviolence School integration African American leadership Civil rights--leadership Nonviolence--Philosophy Race relations Segregation Clark, Kenneth Bancroft, 1914-2005 Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877) Myrdal, Gunnar, 1898-1987 Galamison, Milton A --(Milton Arthur),--1923-1988-- African Americans--Relations with Africans Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; interviewee Robert Penn Warren; interviewer 02OH108RPWCR03_King 1:|19(4)|34(1)|61(5)|70(12)|86(11)|108(10)|134(7)|145(10)|171(4)|199(5)|214(4)|230(8)|257(4)|271(6)|287(10)|317(13)|333(4)|344(10)|367(10)|383(12)|413(1)|433(8)|458(4)|477(12)|499(5)|519(8)|543(8)|559(2)|569(11)|581(4)|615(4)|629(11)|659(8)|673(5)|692(7)|712(5)|732(8)|747(7)|763(10)|783(13)|804(2)|853(3)|885(5)|912(6)|922(12)|936(6)|962(4)|983(7)|1007(12)|1017(15)|1029(12)|1080(10) audiotrans rpwcr interview WARREN: This is an interview, March eighteenth, with Dr. King. All right, sir. May I just plunge in and-- KING: --yes. WARREN: Start with a topic and we'll explore it a little bit? KING: All right. WARREN: Do you see your father's role and your own role as historical phases of the same process? KING: Yes, I do. I think my father and I have worked together a great deal in the last few years trying to grapple with the same problem, and he was working in the area of civil rights before I was born, and when I was just a kid and I grew up in the kind of atmosphere that had a real civil rights concern. And I do think it's the--the same problem that we are grappling with. It's the same historical process, and if, if this is what you mean, I think so. WARREN: That is, there are vast differences, of course, in techniques and opportunities and climate of opinion, all of those million things that are different from one generation to the other. But you see this, see a continuity in the process, and not a, not a sharp division between roles, yours and his? KING: Yes, I see continuity. I, I don't think there's a sharp--there are certainly minor differences, but I don't think there is any sharp difference. I think basically the roles are the same. Now, I grant you that at points my father did not come up under the discipline of the nonviolent philosophy. He was not really trained in the nonviolent discipline, but even without that, the problem was about the same, and even though the methods may not have been consciously nonviolent, they were certainly nonviolent in the sense that he never and never advocated violence as a way to solve the problems. WARREN: Yes, yes. Those are phases then, shall we say, in a process. What is the next phase one might envisage? KING: You mean the next phase in terms of, of-- WARREN:--beyond, beyond the present leadership and the present issues and the present problems. KING: Um-hm. WARREN: Is there a phase beyond the civil rights issues that are now on the forefront? What is the next phase of, shall we say better--for the lack of a better phrase--the negro movement? KING: Um-hm. WARREN: In a general sense? KING: Yeah. WARREN: What would be the next phase? Say, just, offhand saying your father representing one phase, you another. Can you predict a, another phase? Is that beginning to take shape already? KING: Well, I think if there is a next phase it will be an extension of the present phase. My feeling is that we will really have to grapple with ways and means to really bring about an integrated society. Nonviolent direct action, working through the courts, and working through legislative processes may be extremely helpful in bringing about a desegregated society. But when we move into the realm of actual integration which deals with mutual acceptance, a genuine intergroup, interpersonal living, then it seems to me that other methods will have to be used. And I think that the next phase will be the phase that really grapples with the--the methods that must be used to bring about a thoroughly integrated society. WARREN: In that phase, we can certainly see quite clearly responsibilities that belong to the white man, and obligations. KING: Um-hm. WARREN: Now, what problems, responsibilities, and obligations would you say the negro would have in this relationship in this third phase? KING: Well, I would think this would be the phase, or the responsibilities of the negro in this phase would be in the area what Mahatma Gandhi used to refer to as "constructive work," his constructive program, which is a program whereby the individuals work desperately to improve their own conditions and their own standards. I think in this phase, after the negro emerges in and from the desegregated society, then a great deal of time must be spent in improving standards which lag behind to a large extent because of segregation-- WARREN: --yes-- KING: --discrimination, and the legacy of slavery. But it seems to me that the negro will have to engage in a sort of operation bootstraps in order to lift these standards. And I think by raising the, these lagging standards, it will make it much more, well, I, I would say much less difficult for him to move on into the integrated society. WARREN: Have you followed the controversy between Irving Howe and Ralph Ellison in Dissent on the new leader? KING: No, I, I haven't. WARREN: To fall into? It deals with this question of, say, a man like Ralph, who is outside the, of the picket lines-- KING: --um-hm-- WARREN:--being called up short by a white liberal saying, 'You don't belong as an art writer: you (??) to be carrying on a protest.' Ralph's reply was in, in short, 'You, Irving Howe, are another kind of Bilbo. You want to put me in my place that you have picked out for me and not let me be the kind of writer I want to be.' KING: Um-hm. Um-hm. WARREN: That's already (??) I'm as King an aspect of the third phase which is now. KING: Yes, I think so. I think that one has to recognize that this-- [telephone ringing]--could you hold? [Pause in recording.] KING: I've forgotten where I was. WARREN: Well, I put out a question, but I think we'd-- KING: --uh-hm-- WARREN:--come to a point of pause there. Two weeks ago a prominent newspaperman said to me--a Southerner by birth--"Thank God for Dr. King; he's our only hope." He was worrying about violence. Now, this is very often said by white people. Dr. Kenneth Clark has remarked in print that your appeal to many white people is because you lull them into some sense of security. And I hear, too, that there is some resistance, automatic emotional resistance on the part of negroes because they feel that your leadership has somehow given a, not "sellout," but a sense of a soft line, a rapprochement that flatters the white man's sense of security. Do you encounter this, and how do you, how do you think about this? How do you feel about these things, assuming they are true? KING: Well, I don't agree with it. (laughs) Naturally. I think, first, one must understand what I'm talking about and what I'm trying to do when I say "love" and that the love ethic must be at the center of this struggle. I'm certainly not talking about an affectionate emotion. I'm not talking about what the Greek language would refer to as "Eros," or-- WARREN:--yes-- KING: --famile. I'm talking about something much deeper. And I think there's a misunderstanding. WARREN: But now how can this misunderstanding be cleared up? I know your writings and I've heard you speak on, on that. But a misunderstanding somehow remains among a large segment of negroes and among a large segment of whites. KING: Um-hm. Um-hm. Well, I don't think it can be cleared up for those who refuse to look at the meaning of it. I've done it. WARREN: I see. KING: I've said it in print over and over again. WARREN: Yes, you have. Yeah. KING: But I do not think violence and hatred can solve this problem. WARREN: Yes. KING: I think they will end up creating many more social problems than they solve, and I'm thinking of a very strong love. I'm not, I'm thinking, I'm thinking of love in action and not something where you say, "Love you enemies," and just leave it at that, but you love your enemies to the point that you're willing to sit-in at a lunch counter in order to help them find themselves. You're willing to go to jail. WARREN: Yes. KING: And I don't think anybody could consider this cowardice or even a weak approach. So I think-- WARREN:--yes-- KING: --that many of these arguments come from, from those who have gotten so caught up in bitterness that they cannot see the deep moral issues involved. That you're-- WARREN:--or the white man, caught up in complacency. KING: Yes. WARREN: Refuses to understand it. KING: Yes, I think so. I think both. WARREN: Let me shove ahead since we're so pressed and I have-- KING: --um-hm. (laughs) WARREN: Don't laugh. Speaking of bitterness and the pining (??) for bitterness, let's take the Reconstruction of the South after the Civil War as a, a tragic shoring up of all kinds of, of bitternesses and unresolved problems. Myrdal in his big work gives what he considers a sketch for what would have been a reasonable Reconstruction as you, no doubt, recall. The first item he puts on his list would've been compensation to slaveholders by the federal government for the emancipated slaves. Second, expropriation of land held by Southern planters with payment. Then the selling of land to both Negroes and whites who were landless-- KING: --um-hm. WARREN: Selling on a long-time basis and other factors. How do you emotionally respond to this question of paying the Southern slaveholder for the slaves emancipated by the Civil War, during the Civil War? Do you find an emotional resistance to that? How do you, how do you respond to that? KING: Well, I don't find too much emotional resistance to it. I do feel that the Reconstruction period was an unf--a tragic period at points because many of the social problems we face today are here because this period was not used properly. It wasn't planned properly and the future wasn't looked at properly in dealing with the present situations then. I don't, I don't know if this would have been a way of solving the problem, but I don't have any emotional resistance to the idea if, if there was as much concern about seeing that the landless slaves and the penniless slaves had some kind of compensation and something to start with, maybe this plan would've worked all right because it would have given both a sense of dignity, and maybe the bitterness that we now face, still face at many points wouldn't be there because the start would've been a little better. WARREN: That undoubtedly is what Myrdal was, was driving at, this hypothetical situation. KING: Yeah. WARREN: But I had discovered this, this question, giving Myrdal, who's an objective foreign commentator. KING: Um-hm. WARREN: This passage sometimes evokes very violent responses from negroes who are thoroughly acquainted with history, you know. KING: Um-hm. WARREN: People of cultivation and-- KING: --yeah-- WARREN:--and, and decent feelings, on the first two counts there will have violent emotional responses. KING: Um-hm. Yeah. Well, mine is the same way. I'm not, I'm not saying that I agree that this was the way to solve the problem, but I do feel that after 244 years of slavery, certain patterns had developed in the nation and certain attitudes had developed in the minds of people all over the nation that everybody had to take some of the responsibility for this sin committed. And consequently, in solving the problem, it seems to me, maybe some things would have had to be done which may not have represented everything that we would want to see, but it may have saved us many of the bitter moments that we have now. WARREN: You wouldn't have felt, then, that this somehow would've been a betrayal of your dignity as a negro human being to have had this compensation paid? This is all hypothetical of course. But you would not emotionally respond in that way? KING: Well, I, I would think that the whole system, my, my revolt and my emotional response is so much over the, the tragedy of the whole system of slavery that I would revolt against that as much as over the fact that slavery existed for all of these years, you see. WARREN: Sure, sure. That's, that, that question is a, is a, is the question behind it all? KING: Yes. Yeah. But I don't, I don't absolutely feel that this was a way to solve the problem, but yet I, I don't have this strong emotional feeling of bitterness when I hear it suggested because we had accumulated a social problem which had to be grappled with, and this was merely a suggestion as one of the ways that it may have been dealt with and, and may have saved us some of the problems now. Whether it would have, we don't know! WARREN: We don't know. It's hypothetical. KING: Yeah. That's right. WARREN: But would it have been possible to implement it, KING: Unless-- WARREN:--given a war psychology in '65 in the North is another question, too. KING: Is another, that's right. Exactly. WARREN: Let me try something else, another general question. All revolutions, as far as I know, in the past have had the tendency, even the expressionist (??) tendency, to move toward a centralized leadership-- KING: --um-hm-- WARREN:--to move toward a man who has both a power and symbolic function. KING: Um-hm. WARREN: Now you are stuck yourself in a very peculiar role by a series of things, personal qualities and God knows what else, you know. But still there is no , this revolution, if we call it one, does, is not following that pattern, though we see the tendency to focus on single leadership. Can a revolution survive without this symbolic focus, even if not without, even without a literal focus under single leadership? KING: I think so. WARREN: You, you know the question. I mean I'm might not, I'm not putting it well, but you get what I'm driving at? KING: Yes, I think, I think I do. I think a revolution can survive without this single centralized leadership, but I do think there must be centralized leadership in the sense that, say, in our struggle all of the leaders coordinate their efforts, cooperate and, and at least evince a degree of unity. And I think if we, say, if all of the major leaders in this struggle were at, at war with each other, then I think it would be very difficult to make this social revolution the kind of powerful revolution that it's proved to be. But the fact is that we have had on the whole a unified leadership, although it hasn't been just one person. And I think there can be a collective leadership. Maybe some symbolize the struggle a little more than others, but I think it's absolutely necessary for the leadership to be united in order to make the revolution effective. WARREN: There's a problem that many people now talk about, from now on as more and more activity occurs in the big centers like Harlem and Detroit and Chicago, desperate wondering as to whether any leadership now visible or imaginable can control the random explosion that might come at any time-- KING: --um-hm-- WARREN:--the random violence, KING: Yeah. Well-- WARREN:--that is stored; it's being stored up because we know it's stored up. KING: Um-hm. Yes. WARREN: Is that the big central problem you all are facing now? KING: Well, I think it's a, it's a real problem. And I think the only answer to this problem is the degree to which the nation is able to go; I should say the speed in which we move toward the solution of the problem. The more progress we can have in race relations and the, the more we move toward the goal of an integrated society, the more we lift the hope, so to speak, of the masses of people. And it seems to me that this will lessen the possibility of sporadic violence. On the other hand, if we get setbacks and if something happens where the Civil Rights Bill is watered down, for instance, if the negro feels that he can do nothing but move from one ghetto to another and one slum to another, the despair and the disappointment will be so great that it will be very difficult to keep the struggle disciplined and nonviolent. So I think it will depend on the rate of progress and the speed, and recognition on the part of the white leadership of, of the need to go on and get this problem solved and solved in a hurry, and the need for massive action programs to do it. WARREN: Let me read a quotation from Mr. Galamison about the schools and the boycott. KING: Um-hm. Um-hm. WARREN: "I would rather see it"--the public school system--"destroyed than not conform to," and then an, "to his timetable of integration." And, "Maybe it has run its course, anyway,"--the public school system. KING: Maybe it's? I didn't get the last part. WARREN: "Maybe the public school system has run its course anyway." KING: Oh, uh-hm. WARREN: It's over. KING: Um-hm. WARREN: He'd rather see it destroyed than not conform to his prescribed timetable-- KING: --um-hm-- WARREN:--for integration. KING: And you, you're asking what about? WARREN: How, how do you respond to, to that statement? KING: Well, I don't think the public school system has run its course, far from it. And I don't think that we should think in terms of the destruction of the system. I--I tend to feel that we can rectify the system by constantly bringing this issue to the forefront of the conscience of the nation or of our communities. I think the school boycott idea is a very good one. I think it's one of the creative ways to dramatize an intolerable condition. But I wouldn't go to the point of saying that I would like to see the school system destroyed. I think what he is probably getting at is that as long as you have inferior and segregated school systems, you, you aren't getting a quality education for anybody whether it's negro or white. I agree with the Supreme Court at this point that separate facilities are inherently unequal, and somehow the segregated gets a false sense of inferiority because of these very separate facilities. So the-- WARREN:--that's--I'm sorry, please. KING: No, I was just going to say, so that I would, I would say that the real need is to fight hard to get the system rectified and not to destroy the public schools. WARREN: Let's take a case like this. (??) with any polemical intent, you see. It's just a question of the kind of problem. KING: Sure. Yeah. WARREN: Let's take Washington, DC or New York City if things go as they're now going, with a concentration of negro population in the cities-- KING: --um-hm-- WARREN:--and almost a vast majority of public school students then being negroes. KING: Um-hm. WARREN: How can you integrate, say, Washington DC, if you have 95 percent or 90 percent of the schools, your public schools, are negro? Where do you get the white kids to integrate them with? KING: Well, you-- WARREN:--what could be done there? KING: --you have two problems here. One is the fact that this problem will never be ultimately solved until the housing problem is solved. As long as there is residential segregation and as long as the whites in the central city run to the suburbs and leave these core areas, you do have a real problem. Now the only way that it can be dealt with in the transition while we are trying to solve the problem of housing discrimination through various means is to, to transfer students from one district to another, the busing system. WARREN: Suppose they don't have it. Suppose Washington DC as a total unit has only, say, 85 percentage of its negro students in the, up to the eighth grade or the twelfth grade or whatever it would be. Where do you get the white students to bus in? Can you go to Virginia or West Virginia to get them? KING: Well, in a case like that you do have a real problem. I think it, it's a, I guess the Washington situation is almost unique because many of these people live in Virginia and Maryland and even in other states, and that makes the problem even more difficult. WARREN: What about New York, way, the way it's moving, you, the problem is becoming that way in New York. KING: Yeah, but there, on the whole people are still in New York City. I mean they're, sometimes they're in, say, Westchester County. They maybe in, in the Queens, some area of the Queens, but, but still I, I could see it working a little better-- WARREN:--a little better-- KING: --in a situation like that. WARREN: But the problem is we're dealing with a prin-, as a principle, where you can, can see situations where it's insoluble transfer. KING: Yeah. Well, I agree with you. WARREN: Then what do we do? KING: I agree that, that the problem will not be ultimately solved. There are these insoluble situations where we have to, we, we, we have to, we have to see that problem solved in, in the run of history when we get housing integration on a broad level. And I think that this is an area where we must work as hard, you know, to solve the problem of residential segregation as we do to integrate the schools. However, where, wherever schools can be integrated through the busing method, and where it won't be just a, a terrible inconvenience, I think it ought to be done because I think the inconveniences of a segregated education are much greater than the inconveniences of busing students so that they can get an integrated quality education. WARREN: Are you referring to white and negro students both, in this matter of-- KING: --that's right-- WARREN:--of inconvenience? Both are being short-changed, as it were? KING: That's right. Oh, yes. Yes, exactly. WARREN: It's not just the negro being given a chance to be with a white child or going to a better school, it's the question of the white child's own relationship to himself and to negroes, too? KING: That's right. In other words, my, I feel that when a white child goes to school only with white children, unconsciously that child grows up in many instances devoid of a world perspective. There is an unconscious provincialism, and it can develop into an unconscious superiority complex just as a negro develops an unconscious inferiority complex. And it seems to me that one must, that our society must come to see that this whole question of, of integration is not merely a matter of quantity, having the same this and that in terms of a building or a desk or this, but it's a matter of quality. It's, if I can't communicate with a man, I'm not equal to him. It's not only a matter of mathematics; it's a matter of psychology and philosophy. WARREN: Well, he isn't equal to you either if he can't communicate with you. KING: Exactly. It's the same, the same thing. WARREN: It cuts both ways (??). KING: It cuts both ways, exactly. WARREN: Let me ask a question that lies behind part of this, I think, at least for some people it lies behind it. KING: Um-hm. WARREN: DuBois many years ago spoke about this, wrote about this, the split or the possible split in the negro psyche. The negro pulled, on one hand, toward almost a mystique of African heritage, or at least the special negro cultural heritage here, to the mystique of blackness, to all of this. On the other hand the pull toward Western European Judaic- Christian American cultural heritage, with the penalty there, or the price or what, of being absorbed away from the other cultural heritage, even having the blood integrity lost entirely, possibly, in the end? KING: Um-hm. Um-hm. WARREN: The sense of some betrayal somehow hidden in here? Does this problem present itself to you as a real problem, as a real issue, or not? KING: Well, it's a real issue, and I think it, it has made for a good deal of frustration in the negro community, and people have tried to solve it through various methods. One has been to try to reject psychologically the, anything that reminds you of your heritage, you know, and, and this is particularly true of the negro middle-class, the desire to reject anything that reminds you of Africa, anything that, really anything that reminds you of the masses of negroes, and then trying to identify with the white majority, the white middle-class. And so often what happens is that this individual finds himself caught out in the middle with no cultural roots because he's rejected by so many of the white middle-class, and he's out here right in the middle with no cultural roots and he ends up as E. Franklin Frazier says in a book "unconsciously hating himself" when he tries to compensate for this through conspicuous consumption. So it, there's no doubt about the fact that this has been a problem, but I don't think it has to be. I think one can live in American society with a certain cultural heritage, whether it's an African heritage or other, European, what, what have you, and still absorb a great deal of this culture. There is always cultural assimilation. This is not an unusual thing; it's a very natural thing. And I think that we've got to come to see this. The negro is an American. We, we, we know nothing about Africa, although our roots are there in terms of our forbearers. But I mean as far as the average Negro today, he knows nothing about Africa. And I think he's got to face the fact that he is an American, his culture is basically American, and one becomes adjusted to this when he realizes what, what he is. He's got to know what he is. Our destiny is tied up with the destiny of America. WARREN: Some anthropologists and sociologists say that the American negro is more like the old American, the old New Englander or the old Southerner, like any other kind of American. KING: Um-hm. WARREN: Does this make sense to you? KING: I think so. I think, I think they're probably quite correct there. WARREN: Did you read Faulkner's Intruder in the Dust, that novel fifteen years ago? KING: No, I didn't. I know of the novel-- WARREN:--yes, of course-- KING: --very well but I didn't read it. WARREN: He has a passage there where he talks of somehow--and in a very cryptic way--of a homogeneity in the South involving both the Southern white man and the Southern negro as having some homogeneity against, some rapport against an outside order of society. KING: I'm not sure I understand what he means. Do you? WARREN: Well, nobody's quite sure what it means. KING: Um-hm. WARREN: But that somehow, let's pose the question another way. A young lady at Howard, who's a very brilliant girl and stands high in law school and has been on a lot of picket lines and jails, too, she's, can do other things, said to me a few months ago, she had great hope for a settlement in the South because of a common history between the, the white man and the negro. And she said being on the land over this period of time has given some human recognition, even at (??). KING: Um-hm. WARREN: That the possibility of a rapprochement, an understanding in the end. She said, "I'm frightened by Harlem or Detroit. I don't see the possibility of the human communication." She was raised on a farm in Virginia, she said. She didn't say (??) involved here. Now, she is not in a sense soft, you see. She's been in jails, you see? Does this make any sense? KING: Well, I think that this may be some truth here. I feel, for instance, that in the South you have a sort of contact between negroes and whites, an individual contact, that you don't have in the North, for instance. Now, this now is mainly a paternalistic thing, you know. It's a law of servantry-- WARREN:--or a billyclub. KING: Yes. [Tape 1 ends; tape 2 begins.] WARREN: This is tape 2 of the interview with Dr. King. Continue. [Pause in recording.] WARREN: Let me ask you this. Can we go-- [Pause in recording.] WARREN: We can, all right. Good. That's great. What about the meaning of "Freedom Now," the slogan "Freedom Now?" We know the historical process is never now, and it's never absolute. KING: Um-hm. WARREN: What about the relation between the historical process and the slogan? KING: Yes. Well, I think the slogan is a good one, and I think it--it really means that the negro has reached the point of feeling that he should have freedom now. Now, I don't think there's any illusion in the mind of anybody about the fact that you've got to observe historical process, you've got to think about the fact that this structural change cannot come overnight. But we must work at it and we must try to deal with it with such an urgency that we do have, we are challenged by the, the need for it now. And, and I think this is more of a challenge to work and realize the urgency of the moment than it is a belief that you can really get freedom within, within such a short period. WARREN: I sat with a group of students some months ago and asked if it's a question of social process. KING: Um-hm. WARREN: And a very bright boy, a senior in a good college, said, "I understand about social process, in time," he said, "but I can't bear to bring myself to say it." KING: Um-hm. WARREN: Closed his eyes and-- KING: --yeah, well, I find it is a problem. And we have lived so long with this idea with people saying it takes time and wait on time, that I find it very difficult to, to adjust to this. I mean, I, I get annoyed almost when I hear it, although I know it takes time. But the people that use this argument have been people so often who, who really didn't want the change to come, and gradualism for them meant a do nothing-ism, you know, and the standstill-ism, so that it has been a revolt, I think, against the idea of a feeling on the part of some that you can just sit around and wait on time when actually time is neutral. It can be used either constructively or destructively. WARREN: But some words have become symbolically charged with feelings where they can't even be used, where they mean the same thing as other words. KING: Yes. Yes, exactly. WARREN: Like the word "gradual" has become emotionally charged, symbolically charged-- KING: --that's right. WARREN: So the word can't be used. KING: That's right. Exactly. WARREN: When you say "historical process," it's--it's, the word's been cleaned though it means the same thing. KING: It means the same identical thing, but all of the emotions, you know, surrounding gradual, gradualism, that, and--and this whole thing of waiting on time, it--it brings about an initial resentment from, from the negro and his allies in the white community. WARREN: Now, speaking of symbolisms like that, symbolic charging and other ends of (??) things, I was talking a few weeks ago with a very, very able negro attorney, and he suddenly said, "I live in a society"-- he's a very violent, bitter man. KING: Um-hm. WARREN: But very able--"I live in a society where all the symbolism of the poetry I read, the, the Bible I read, is charged with the white man's values. God's white robes," you know, a-- KING: --um-hm-- WARREN:--white light of hope, you know, all of the, which I, which are an affront to me." And he said, "I find myself schooling myself now to resist all the symbolism and invert it for myself." KING: Um-hm. Um-hm. Yeah. Well, I think this is, many negroes go through this and, and I think now probably more than ever before. My only hope is that this kind of reaction will not take us right back where we, you know, into the same thing we're trying to get out. There's always a danger that an oppressed group will seek to rise from the position of disadvantage to one of advantage, you see, thereby subverting justice, so that you end up substituting one tyranny for another. Now, I think our danger is that we can get so bitter that we revolt against everything white, and this becomes a very dangerous thing because it, it can lead to the kind of philosophy that you get in the black nationalist movements, and the kind of philosophy that ends up preaching black supremacy as a mean, as a way of counteracting white supremacy. And I just think this is a, this would be bad for our total society. But I can well understand the kind of, of, the kind of impatience and the psychological conditions that lead to this kind of reaction. WARREN: It's there. KING: Yeah. WARREN: There's a special thing about this revolution that makes it unlike, as far as I can tell, any other. All previous revolutions have aimed at the liquidation of a class or a regime. KING: Yes. Yes. WARREN: This one does not aim at liquidation of a class or a regime. KING: Um-hm. That's right. It's-- WARREN:--it's aimed at something else. KING: It's a revolution. WARREN: How, how would you define that aim then? KING: Well, I would say that this is a revolution to get in. It's very interesting. I think you're quite right that most revolutions, almost all revolutions, have been centered on destroying something, you see, and that's been the center. When in this revolution, the whole quest is for the negro to get into the mainstream of American life. He's, it's a revolution calling upon the nation to live up to what is already there in an id-, in an idealistic sense, I mean in all of its creeds and all of its basic affirmations, but it's never lived up to it. So I think this is the difference. It is a revolution of rising expectations, and it is a revolution not to liquidate the structure of America, but a revolution to get into the mainstream of American life. WARREN: A revolution to liquidate an idea, is that it? KING: That's right, to liquidate an idea which is out of harmony with the basic idea of the nation. WARREN: It's a new kind of revolution. KING: It's, yes, it's, it's a revolution, it is a new kind of revolution. WARREN: Now, let me say it and you can say it correct or, revise-- KING: --yeah. I, I'll get it. I got it. Yeah. WARREN: Correct or revise this. The problem may be, is this your problem and, and people like yourself, to define this revolution in the new terms to contain the element of hate and liquidation and exploit the element of hope? All of it is based on hope and hate together. (??) They're the dynamics-- KING: --um-hm-- WARREN:--in the revel of-- KING: --um-hm-- WARREN:--change, revolutionary change. KING: Um-hm. Um-hm. WARREN: (??) You want to drive one horse, not two, unless you want to kill one of the horses. KING: Yes. Yes. And you are saying, now, you, you're saying that-- WARREN:--hate's a great dynamic in a revolution. KING: Yes. Yes, but what you're saying is that in this revolution, you don't, you don't have this? WARREN: You have it psychologically, sure. KING: Yes. WARREN: That's human. KING: I, yeah. WARREN: The hate element is there. KING: Um-hm. WARREN: But it's a question of containing that. KING: Yeah. WARREN: Or converting it to something else-- KING: --yes-- WARREN:--because there's no legitimate object for it. KING: Um-hm. Um-hm. WARREN: It can't (??) liquidation. KING: Yes. Yes. Well, I think you're quite right, and I think that this is a part of the job of the leadership in this revolution, you know, to keep that hope alive, and yet keep this, this kind of, I guess, the word hate here. The best way I would call it is to keep the, the best way to put it is to keep the kind of righteous indignation alive, or the kind of healthy discontent alive, that will keep the revolution moving on because we don't-- WARREN:--without the personal focus? KING: Without the personal. Yes, I think that's right. WARREN: Is that it? KING: That's right. WARREN: Let me ask you one, one more question. How do you interpret the assaults on you in Harlem? KING: That, you mean-- WARREN:--the two assaults, yeah-- KING: --the two, the-- WARREN:--yes, yes. KING: The stabbing and the-- WARREN:--two, stabbing and the, the throwing of things. These two experiences must have been ghastly shocking, of course, to anybody-- KING: --um-hm. WARREN: But as a special extra shock in-- KING: --yes-- WARREN:--your case. KING: Yes. Yeah. Well, the first one, I, I don't know if we'll ever know what the cause or basis was because here you had a demented mind who really didn't know why she was doing it. I, I really don't, really don't think, it may be that she had been around some of the meetings of these groups in Harlem, black nationalist groups, that have me all the time as a favorite object of scorn-- WARREN:--yes-- KING: --and hearing this over and over again, she, she may have responded to it when I came to Harlem. Or it may be that she was just so confused that she would've done this to anybody whose name was in the news. We, we'll never know. But now on the other one where they threw eggs at-- WARREN:--yes-- KING: --eggs at a car, I think that was really a, a result of the black nationalist groups, and a feeling, you know, they've heard all of these things about my being soft and my talking about love the white man all the time, and I, I think a real feeling that, that, that this kind of approach is far from, it, it's a cowardly approach. And they transfer that bitterness toward the white man to me because they began to see, I mean, they began to fear that I'm saying love this person that they have such a bitter attitude toward. I think it's, I think it grows right out of that. In fact Malcolm X had a meeting the day before and he had talked about me a great deal and said, told them that I would be there the next night and said, "Now, you all are to go over there and let old King know what you think about him." And he had said a great deal about nonviolence, criticizing nonviolence, and saying that I approved of negro men and women being bitten by dogs and the fire hoses, and I say, say go on and not defend yourself. So I think this kind of response grew out of the build up and the, all of the talk about my being a sort of polished Uncle Tom. I mean this is the kind of thing they say in those groups. Now my feeling has always been, again, that they have never understood what I've said, I'm, I'm saying-- WARREN:--same old story? KING: Because, yeah, they confuse, they don't see that there's a great deal of a difference between nonresistance to evil and nonviolent resistance. And certainly I'm not saying that you sit down and patiently accept injustice. I'm talking about a very strong force, where you stand up with all your might against an evil system, and you, you, you are not a coward. You, you, you are resisting, but you've come to see that tactically as well as morally, it is better to be nonviolent. I can't see anything but, even if one would, didn't want to deal with the moral questions, it would just be impractical for the negro to talk about making his struggle a violent one. WARREN: On that point, the, this Brinkley survey and the Post survey in Harlem came up with an astonishing fact, that a large percentage of the population of Harlem do not think of a negro as being a minority. KING: Is that so? WARREN: Don't even know it. KING: They don't even-- WARREN: --that even though it's factually been done. KING: Yeah. WARREN: And other, others feel it, emotionally don't feel it because they see so few white people around. KING: This is a, that's right; they never go out of Harlem. WARREN: So, the tactical appeal doesn't apply to them. KING: Um-hm. Yeah. WARREN: They say, "We're the majority." KING: Yeah. That's right. That's right. I think that's-- WARREN:--that's dangerous fact, isn't it? KING: Right. That's a dangerous fact, yes. And you see many people in Harlem never go out of Harlem. I mean they'd never even been downtown. And you can see how this bitterness can accumulate. Here you see people crowded and hovered up in ghettos and slums with no hope, you see. They, they, they see no way out. If they could, you know, look down a long corridor and see an exit sign, they would feel a little better, but they, they see no sense of hope. And it, it's, it's very easy for one talking about violence and hatred for the white man to appeal to them. And, and I have never thought of this, but I think this, this is quite true, that if, even if you talk to them about nonviolence from a tactical point of view, they can't quite see it because they don't even know they're outnumbered-- WARREN:--that's right-- KING: --you see. WARREN: Emotionally, they can't grasp it. KING: That's right. They can't grab it. WARREN: Let me ask one more question. When you were assaulted, and it's very hard, I know, to reconstruct one's own feelings, what did you feel? What were your first actual reactions at the moment they threw the, well, say the eggs and so forth, say that, that, not the mad woman, but the, the other. Can you reconstruct that? KING: Well, I-- WARREN:--was it significant to you in a, in an emotional way what you went through in that moment? KING: Yes, I remember my feelings very well. I, at, at first this was a very, I guess I had a, a very depressing response because I realized that these were my own people, these were negroes throwing eggs at me. And I guess you do go through those moments when you begin to think about what you're going through and the sacrifices and suffering that you face as a result of the movement, and yet your own people don't have an understanding and are seeking, not even an appreciation, and seeking to destroy your image at every point. But then it was very interesting. I went right into church and I spoke and I started thinking not so much about myself but about the very people, the society that made people respond like this. It was so interesting how I was able very quickly to get my mind off of myself and feeling sorry for myself and feeling rejected, and I started including them into the orbit of my thinking that it's not enough to condemn them for doing this, this, engaging in this act, but what about the society and what about the conditions that are still alive which made people act like this? And I got up and spoke and mentioned this, and the people were almost, they didn't, I told them about the experience because many of them in the church didn't know about it and I got up and told them, and they were, they didn't quite know how to respond when I said, I told them what happened and I said, "But, you know, the thing that concerns me is not so much the, those young men. I feel sorry for them. I'm concerned about the fact that maybe all of us have contributed to this by not working harder to get rid of the conditions, the poverty, the social isolation, and all of the conditions that cause individuals to respond like this. WARREN: I've attended some of your meetings; I was at Bridgeport two weeks ago. KING: Oh, you were? WARREN: Yes. And I was struck by one fact. It was a total middle-class audience, wasn't it? Middle-class? KING: Yeah, I think it was, by and large. WARREN: Middle-class audience. KING: Yes. Yes. WARREN: By and large that. KING: Um-hm. WARREN: Now you have, I've never seen, except in that context I never see you in a situation where you're dealing with a mass audience, you see-- KING: --um-hm-- WARREN:--of, of the uneducated and the poorly educated and the poor. KING: Um-hm. Um-hm. WARREN: I should like to see that some time at one-- KING: --oh, yes-- WARREN:--of these gatherings. KING: Yes. Well, I-- WARREN:--I know you have-- KING: --I do it a great deal-- WARREN:--these types of experiences. I know you do. KING: Yes. Yes. WARREN: But if you ever have, KING: Even when I'm going, sometimes when we're in a city having a direct action program, I will go into poolrooms and many of the taverns, and just have a session there where I speak to groups. WARREN: I know that's true. Friends of mine have been with you to see you do it. KING: Um-hm. WARREN: So I know it happens. KING: Yes. WARREN: I'd just like to see that some time-- [Tape 2 ends.] [End of interview.] Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist minister and civil rights activist. He was a major leader of the civil rights movement from the mid-1950s until his assassination in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) was a Baptist minister in Atlanta, Georgia and Montgomery, Alabama and a civil rights activist. He was a major leader of the civil rights movement from the mid-1950s until his assassination in 1968. King graduated from a segregated Atlanta high school in 1948 and received his Bachelor of Art's degree from Morehouse College. King received his Bachelor's of Divinity from Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania and later completed his doctorate in 1955 from Boston University. As an executive committee member of the NAACP, he served as leader of the first great nonviolent demonstration, the bus boycott of 1955. Also in 1955, King was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). King is known for promoting nonviolent tactics to combat racism and segregation including the 1963 March on Washington. In 1964, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. In 1968 King was assassinated on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis Tennessee where he was waiting to lead a protest march for the city's striking garbage workers. In this interview, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. discusses the similarities and differences of his and his father's work as civil rights activists. Dr. King describes and defends his belief in nonviolent methods and provides his reaction to criticisms of his philosophy of nonviolence. He also describes what he considers the next phases of the civil rights movement. Dr. King discusses Dr. Clark's belief that Dr. King is "safe" for white people in the civil rights movement to follow. He also addresses the resulting resistance of some African American's in the movement towards his leadership and discusses the current state and future of the civil rights movement without a centralized leadership. Dr. King also considers Gunnar Myrdal's proposal for Reconstruction of the South after the Civil War and discusses the connection between the Reconstruction era and contemporary racism. He continues by describing the issues associated with relating to Africa and African American identity and cultural assimilation. Dr. King provides his opinion regarding bussing and school integration and briefly discusses Reverend Milton Galamison. He also explains his interpretation of the slogan "Freedom Now" and provides his views on the Black Nationalism movement. Dr. King recalls when he was physically attacked by African American men and women and proposes the reasons behind the attacks. Dr. King also briefly discusses the type of audience that he usually addresses. Civil Rights