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World House Podcast

Welcome to the World House, a podcast inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr., and his vision of a just and peaceful world. Listen to Dr. Clayborne Carson, director of The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute, and Dr. Mira Foster, director of the Liberation Curriculum, as they talk about anything and everything related to Martin Luther King, Jr., and the freedom struggles he inspired. 

The World House is a series of podcasts designed to introduce you to the work of the King Institute and in particular to the King Papers Project. The project started more than three decades ago, when Coretta Scott King asked Dr. Clayborne Carson to edit and publish a definitive edition of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. Although King is perhaps the best-known American of the twentieth century, at the King Institute we continue discovering new information about King's life. The World House podcast reveals that there is still much that we can learn about this remarkable man.

Our first episode focuses on perhaps one of the most controversial speeches Martin Luther King, Jr., ever gave. In April 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr., traveled to New York City to give the Beyond Vietnam speech at The Riverside Church. King took many months to prepare his anti-war speech and asked friends and colleagues (Vincent Harding, Clarence B. Jones)  to help him craft it. When he finally delivered the speech, the public response was divided. While many anti-war activists applauded King's public stands, some of his supporters sharply criticized him.

Listen to our podcast and find out more details about the Beyond Vietnam speech. Why did King decide to speak out against the war, and what exactly was he criticized for? Who were the people that helped him write the speech? What were the consequences of speaking out against the war? And finally, why should we care about King's 1967 Anti Vietnam War speech today? 
 
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In this episode, we take a look at Martin Luther King, Jr.'s early years in Atlanta, GA. We talk about the family the young King was born into and the religious and social environment in which he spent his childhood. Michael King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 into a family with a rich history of Baptist ministry. King noted, "My father is a preacher, my grandfather was a preacher, my great-grandfather was a preacher, my only brother is a preacher, my daddy’s brother is a preacher. So I didn’t have much choice." This family tradition and the strong family ties to the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA, undoubtedly influence young Martin to consider ministry for his future career. At the age of fifteen, King entered the Morehouse College still considering becoming a lawyer or a doctor. However, after encountering Dr. Benjamin Mays and Dr. George Kelsey, two men who greatly influenced his life, King decided to enter the ministry. “I had felt the urge to enter the ministry from my high school days, but accumulated doubts had somewhat blocked the urge. Now it appeared again with an inescapable drive. I felt a sense of responsibility which I could not escape.”
Excerpt From: Clayborne Carson. “The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.” 
 
 
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In this episode, we are talking about Martin Luther King, Jr.'s time at the Crozer Theological Seminary, near Chester, Pennsylvania. In 1949 King began his study and was especially attracted to the liberal theological teachings at Crozer. During his time at the seminary, King studied many of the influential philosophers and thinkers, such as Rauschenbusch, Niebuhr, Marx, and Nietzsche, and strengthened his commitment to the Christian social gospel. He was also exposed to pacifism and introduced to the teachings of Gandhi and his ideas of nonviolence as a method of social reform. One of the more insightful documents that we have from King’s time at Crozer is his paper which he wrote for George W. Davis’ class: “An Autobiography of Religious Development.” This paper is a window into the mind of the 21-year-old King and his reflection on the circumstances and reasons that influenced and shaped his decision to become a minister. 

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In Fall 1951, at the age of 22, Martin Luther King, Jr., moved to Boston, where he began his doctoral studies at the School of Theology, at Boston University. But rather than focusing on King's graduate studies, this episode is dedicated to King's encounter with Coretta Scott. A student at Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music, Coretta was pursuing a career as a singer when she met Martin in early 1952. After the initial meeting, Martin surprisingly let Coretta know that she possessed all the qualities he ever wanted from a wife. At first reluctant to date a Baptist minister, Coretta was soon impressed by Martin's personality. Their courtship continued for over a year before they were married on June 18, 1953. A closer look at some of the love letters between Coretta and Martin reveal much about their relationship as well as their political interests and perspectives on gender roles. What becomes apparent is Coretta's political activism prior to meeting Martin. Understanding who Coretta Scott King was before she married Martin becomes crucial in recognizing her lifelong involvement in the nonviolent struggle for justice and freedom. 

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In 1954, Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King, Jr., moved to Montgomery, AL, where King began his pastorship at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. The Church had a rich history, with many prominent ministers preceding King, including Dr. Vernon Johns.  As a social gospel minister, King committed himself to addressing social problems and played an active role in Montgomery's community.  He joined the local branch of the NAACP and encouraged his congregation to become politically active and register to vote. During their first year in Montgomery, the young King family settled into their new home, and in November 1955 Coretta gave birth to Yolanda Denise "Yoki," the Kings' first daughter.

On December 1, 1955, one of Montgomery's most prominent community members came into the spotlight of local news: Rosa Parks. She refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger and was arrested for violating the segregation laws. In response to Mrs. Parks' arrest, local black leaders called for a boycott of the city busses. Jo Ann Robinson, a member of the Women’s Political Council, spread the news of the protest by printing and distributing 52,500 leaflets calling for a boycott on Monday, December 5 in protest of Mrs. Parks' arrest and the injustice of segregation laws. Much to the organizers' surprise, the boycott was nearly 100% successful and the buses remained empty. On that very same evening, the local leaders, including E. D. Nixon, Ralph Abernathy, and Martin Luther King, Jr., called for a meeting in which the future of the boycott would be discussed. To help sustain the boycott, the leaders founded the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) and elected King as president. In just a few minutes before this first meeting, King prepared the speech that would inspire and motivate the people of Montgomery to carry out the protest for the next 381 days.

For further resources and educational material, click here.

 

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In this episode we are going to discuss the events of 1956 in Montgomery, where the bus boycott unfolded. On 5 December 1955, most of Montgomery's black citizens stayed off the local buses. That afternoon, the city's ministers and leaders met to discuss the possibility of extending the boycott into a long-term campaign. During this meeting, the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) was founded, and King was elected president. The same evening, King delivered his first speech as the spokesman of the MIA, at the Holt Street Baptist Church. The MIA formulated a list of demands: courteous treatment by bus operators; first-come, first-served seating for all, with blacks seating from the rear and whites from the front; and black bus operators on predominately black routes.

As the city commissioners and bus company officials refused to meet the demands, Montgomery's black residents stayed off the buses through 1956, despite continuous harassment and city officials' efforts to defeat the boycott. In response to the city's penalizing of black taxi drivers for aiding the boycotters, the MIA developed a carpool system of about 300 cars.

In late January of 1956, the homes of King and E. D. Nixon were bombed. However, King was able to calm the crowd that gathered after the explosion at his home and urged them to remain nonviolent. In February, the city officials obtained an injunction against the boycott and indicted over 80 boycott leaders under a 1921 law prohibiting boycotts against businesses. King was tried and convicted on the charge and ordered to pay $500 or serve 386 days in jail in the case State of Alabama v. M. L. King, Jr. Despite all the difficulties, the boycott continued.

National coverage of the boycott and King's trial draw support from people outside Montgomery. In early 1956 Bayard Rustin and Glenn E. Smiley came to Montgomery and advised King on the Gandhian techniques of nonviolence.

In the spring of 1956, Fred Gray filed a lawsuit that challenged Alabama state laws mandating segregation on buses; On 5 June 1956, the federal district court ruled in Browder v. Gayle that bus segregation was unconstitutional. On 13 November, when King was in the courthouse being tried on the legality of the boycott’s carpools, a reporter notified him of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions; while the carpool was outlawed, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed Browder v. Gayle and struck down laws requiring segregated seating on public buses. The Montgomery Bus Boycott ended on 20 December 1956. King's role in the bus boycott catapulted him into the international spotlight. King's commitment to nonviolent protest combined with Christian ethics became the model for challenging segregation in the South.

For further resources and educational material, click here.

 

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In this episode, we are talking about King's commitment to nonviolence and his connection to Mahatma Gandhi and his teachings. Nonviolence was the fundamental ideology that guided Martin Luther King, Jr.'s leadership during the civil rights movement. Throughout his activism, in his sermons and public speeches, King advocated for nonviolent resistance to fight racism and social injustices.

Long before King became the spokesman for the civil rights movement, many other activists were motivated by and committed to nonviolence and its application in the struggle for justice and freedom. King met with and was inspired by many of the "African American Gandhians." Many of them were his teachers and mentors, such as Benjamin MaysMordecai JohnsonBayard RustinJames Lawson, and others.

To deepen his understanding of Gandhi, King traveled to India. On 3 February 1959, Martin and Coretta King embarked on a five-week-long journey through India. They toured the homeland of Mohandas K. Gandhi, the leader of India's independence movement. Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolence and his success in ending the colonial rule of the British Empire over India convinced King that "nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity."

During the busy five weeks, the Kings met with Indian politicians, scholars, Gandhi's family members, and ordinary citizens. The trip had a profound impact on King, as he later surmised. Experiencing firsthand the results of Gandhi's nonviolent activism, Martin Luther King, Jr., solidified his belief in the power of nonviolence as a guiding principle in the pursuit of freedom and justice.

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This episode follows Kings' move to Atlanta and Martin's involvement in students' sit-in campaign. In early 1960 the King family left Montgomery, Alabama, and relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, where King continued his work at the SCLC. In Atlanta, King also took on the position of the assistant pastor, next to his father, at the Ebenezer Baptist Church

At the same time, the movement against racial injustice was gaining force, with young people organizing and challenging the status quo of segregation. In early 1960, a handful of black students in Greensboro, North Carolina, sat at the lunch counter reserved for white customers, setting a precedent for what became known as the sit-ins campaign. In April 1960, Ella Baker and other activists played a crucial role in forming The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), an organization founded by young people dedicated to challenging racism and inequality through protests and nonviolent direct actions. 

Later that year, in October 1960, King decided to join student activists during one of the sit-ins at Rich's, a local department store. As expected, local police arrested King together with nearly 300 students. The students were later released, but Martin was detained and indicted for violating probation on an earlier traffic offense. After being sentenced to four months of hard labor at Georgia State Prison at Reidsville, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy played a crucial role in King's prompt release. This involvement contributed to Kennedy's narrow victory over Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential election. Many years later, Coretta Scott King recalled these events in an interview for the "Eyes on the Prize" documentary. Listen to Coretta as she speaks about her encounter with senator Kennedy and the long term implications of his intervention.

For more information on 1960 Atlanta und the Sit-in movement, go to: Sit-Ins and Freedom RidesFreedom on the Menu-Greensboro Sit-InsThe Sit-in Movement.

 

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This episode focuses on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s involvement in the 1961/1962 Albany Movement, in Albany GA.

Grown from local grassroots activism and initiated by SNCC members Charles Sherrod and Cordell Reagon, the Albany Movement challenged institutionalized segregation and discrimination in the city. While the movement was in full swing, William G. Anderson, a local doctor and the president of the Albany Movement, invited Martin Luther King, Jr., to speak at one of the meetings. After King delivered his speech at the mass meeting at Shiloh Baptist Church, on December 15, 1961, he decided to participate in a march.  The march led to his arrest, jail sentence, and many months of direct involvement. Albany’s police chief Laurie Pritchett responded to the demonstrations with mass arrests. However, he refrained from public brutality and arranged King’s release from jail in order to avoid federal interventions and minimize negative publicity.

By the end of 1962, despite countless protests and hundreds of arrests, the Albany Movement did not achieve any tangible gains, as Albany's public facilities remained segregated. For the activists and SNCC members, however, the campaign was a success.  It was a powerful lesson in organizing and mobilizing local citizens to register to vote and stand up to segregation and injustice.

 

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It is the winter of 1962. Martin Luther King, Jr., decided to join the local activists and the movement leader Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth in their preparation for the Birmingham Campaign, a major initiative against segregation in the city of Birmingham, Alabama. Notorious for racial discrimination, Birmingham had a reputation as a stronghold of segregation and racial violence in the South. One of the most ardent segregationists in Birmingham was Public Safety Commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connor.  At the time of the preparation for the Birmingham Campaign, Connor was running for the position of mayor. In order to prevent interference with this election, Shuttlesworth postponed the protests until after the election was decided in favor of a more moderate candidate, Albert Boutwell. On April 3rd the Birmingham campaign was launched, including sit-ins, marches on City Hall, and a boycott of downtown merchants. However, within one week, the city government obtained a court injunction against the protests. The campaign leaders had to decide whether they would disobey the court order and if so what would be the consequences?
This episode focuses on the months of preparation for the Birmingham Campaign, which took place in April 1963. Find out more about the strategies and plans that the organizers put together to attack the city's segregation system. Finally, learn about how King made one of his toughest decisions on whether he would continue fundraising for bail money for the jailed demonstrators or go to jail in solidarity with them.
 
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After violating the court injunction against protests, Martin Luther King, Jr., was arrested and jailed on 12 March 1963. While in jail, King composed a response to Birmingham's white clergymen's criticism of the protests. His passionate and eloquent writing became known as The Letter From Birmingham Jail. Meanwhile, to sustain the momentum of the campaign, SCLC organizers James Bevel, Diana Nash, and Andrew Young,  planned to involve high school students in the protests.
On 2 May more than 1,000 African American children marched into downtown Birmingham; the police arrested hundreds of them. The next day, as more students arrived, public safety commissioner "Bull" Connor directed local police and fire departments to use force to stop the demonstrations. During the following days, images of children being blasted by high-pressure fire hoses, beaten by officers, and attacked by police dogs appeared in the news triggering national outrage. Eventually, local business owners agreed to negotiate with the protest leaders. By 10 May the demonstrations were halted and the negotiators had reached an agreement.
This episode focuses on the events that took place in April and May of 1963 in downtown Birmingham, AL. In addition, Dr. Carson discusses the complicated relationship between King and Shuttlesworth and the long term consequences the campaign would have for both men. 
 
 
 
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This week's episode focuses on two of the iconic civil rights movement leaders:  John Lewis, and Cordy Tindell Vivian. Both men passed away on July 18, 2020, leaving behind an inspiring legacy of courage and civil service.  Dr. Carson draws our attention to the early moments of their activism when John Lewis and C.T. Vivian participated and played a crucial role in the Freedom Rides of May 1961.  Initiated by the Congress of Racial Equality, the Freedom Rides challenged segregation on interstate buses and bus terminals in the South.
In workshops on nonviolence, led by James Lawson, Lewis and Vivian - like many other young student activists in the 1960s - were trained in nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience. Equipped with their commitment to racial justice and nonviolence, the activists embarked on the Freedom Rides from Washington D.C. to Jackson, Mississippi, knowing that they would face racist brutality.
Nonetheless, with the support of committed movement leaders, such as Diane Nash, the Freedom Riders did not let violence deter them from their goal.  They continued on their mission, determined to defy segregation in the South.  This remarkable courage and sacrifice attracted extensive media attention, eventually forcing the Kennedy administration to intervene in favor of the Freedom Riders.
 
For more information and educational resources go to: Sit-Ins, Freedom Rides.

 

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On 28 August 1963 over 200,000 people took part in the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Like many other representatives of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed the large crowds that evening. King's speech was the final one that day. He told the masses about the unfulfilled promise of the Declaration of Independence to guarantee the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to all men. King also spoke of his dream, a detailed vision of what America will be like, once that promise is realized. Listen to this episode to find out more about King's most memorable "I Have a Dream" speech.

 

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On December 10, 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr., accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. During his acceptance speech, King acknowledged that he received "this award on behalf of a civil rights movement which is moving with determination and a majestic scorn for risk and danger to establish a reign of freedom and a rule of justice." In the Nobel Lecture, The Quest for Peace and Justice, King laid out his agenda of taking on the problems of racism, poverty, and war, not just in the United States but for all mankind. 
The international recognition of King's activism was certainly a mountain top moment in his life. However, soon after his return home to the United States, King experienced a series of events that would send him into an emotional valley. As the FBI monitored King's activities, the director J. Edgar Hoover deployed agents to find subversive material on King, ultimately trying to destroy his reputation as the country's most prominent leader of the civil rights movement. 
 
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Decades after the assassination of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., the two men remain fixed images in the American consciousness: Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights movement leader and advocate of nonviolence, and Malcolm X, the ardent supporter of black nationalism, encouraging African Americans to challenge racial oppression “by any means necessary.” But to what extent were the two men really ideological opposites? Did they share any common goals? 
 
Listen to this episode to find out more about the connections between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., and discover the complexities of the relationship between the two iconic leaders of the African American liberation struggle.
 
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The demands for political representation and voting rights for African Americans continued to grow and became once again sharply visible during the Voting Rights Campaign in Selma, Alabama. In January 1965, the Dallas County Voters League invited Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to join the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and other local African American activists. The campaign was marked by repeated marches to voter registration offices and escalating clashes between demonstrators and police, leading to mass arrests by the end of February. The most horrific event was the murder of Jimmy Lee Jackson on the night of 18 February 1965 by an Alabama state trooper.
 
In this episode Clay Carson and Mira Foster discuss the events, including three marches, that shaped the 1965 Voting Rights Campaign in Selma.The first march took place on Sunday, 7 March, and was led by Hosea Williams and SNCC leader John Lewis. It ended with a brutal confrontation on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where the armed law enforcement attacked the peaceful marchers. The march and the violent events of that day became known as Bloody Sunday. The second march took place on March 9. Once again, policemen and marchers confronted each other at the bridge. However, King, this time present at the march, decided to turn around and lead the marchers back to Brown Chapel Church in Selma. The third and final march began on 21 March. This time the activists were protected by hundreds of federalized Alabama National Guardsmen.  After four days, on 25 March, 25,000 demonstrators arrived in Montgomery, where Martin Luther King Jr., delivered his historic Address at the Conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery March.
On 6 August, in the presence of Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
 
*** Visit our Gallery to follow the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, through the photography of Stephen Somerstein, an eyewitness to the critical civil rights events of March 1965. ***
 
Episode photo: SELMA TO MONTGOMERY MARCH Day 5 The Abernathy Children, Ralph David Abernathy, Juanita Jones Abernathy, and John Lewis lead the lineup and beginning of the March. 1965
Sources: File URL
 
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On Wednesday, 11 August 1965, Watts, a neighborhood in Los Angeles, California, became a battleground for one of the most violent confrontations between police and  African Americans during the 1960s. The arrest of Marquette Frye, a 21-year-old black man, triggered six days of unrest, resulting in 34 deaths, over 1,000 injuries, nearly 4,000 arrests, and the destruction of property valued at $40 million. 
 
At that time, Clayborne Carson lived in Los Angeles and witnessed these events as they unfolded in the late summer of 1965.  In this episode, Carson talks about his activism as a member of the Non-Violent Action Committee (N-VAC). He recalls the Watts Rebellion and explains its impact on the civil rights struggle. The Watts uprising confirmed Martin Luther King Jr.'s urge to expands the movement from the segregated South to include the urban North. Simultaneously, young black activists grew increasingly impatient with King's nonviolent tactics and, embracing a greater degree of militancy, began demanding black power for black people.
 
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When conservative Arizona Senator Barry M. Goldwater ran for president in 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr., expressed his opposition, explaining: "I feel that the prospect of Senator Goldwater being president of the United States so threatens the health, morality, and survival of our nation that I can not in good conscience fail to take a stand against what he represents" (King, 16 July 1964). Goldwater lost the election to President Lyndon Johnson in a landslide, winning majorities only in his native Arizona and five states of the Deep South.

This bonus episode features a speech Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered exactly one week before the Presidential Election of 1964, in Compton, California. With the Presidential Elections of 2020 only a few days away, King's speech sounds as relevant and meaningful as in 1964.
 
To see the video of the speech, go to https://vimeo.com/471792367
 
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When James Meredith - who desegregated the University of Mississippi - was shot and injured during his solitary "March Against Fear" in June 1966, civil rights leaders and activists convened in Mississippi to resume the march. They knew that despite the 1965 Voting Rights Act, white supremacists continued to terrorize many African Americans who dared to register and vote.  To prove that fear won't intimidate them, hundreds of participates rallied behind Meredith's cause as they completed the march.
Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), led by Martin Luther King, Jr., Congress Of Racial Equality (CORE), represented by  Floyd McKissick, and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), with Stokely Carmichael as SNCC's new chairman,  joined together to co-lead Meredith's March Against Fear.
During the march, Stokely Carmichael (SNCC) attracted national attention. Calling for "Black Power,"  Carmichael gave voice to younger activists disillusioned with the nonviolent principles, while exposing the growing differences within the civil rights movement. "Black Power" resonated with those who grew impatient and angry with African Americans' situation - poor and powerless despite civil rights reforms.
 
This episode includes excerpts from an interview with Stokely Carmichael, conducted by Blackside, Inc. on November 7, 1988, for Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads 1965 to 1985. Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
 

 

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In January of 1966, Martin Luther King, Jr., moved to Chicago to support the local activists in the Chicago Freedom Movement, a campaign against poverty, housing discrimination, and other urban problems. In this episode, Dr. Carson discusses how King experienced and dealt with impoverished living conditions in the ghettos, segregated schools, lack of employment opportunities, and other forms of discrimination in the North. As black political activism shifted from the rural south to northern cities, King's nonviolent principles were tested and proven less successful. Despite numerous mass marches, the Chicago Campaign produced few tangible gains and weakened King's reputation as an effective civil rights leader.  

 

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In 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr., began working on his most ambitious and also his last major campaign; the Poor People's Campaign (PPC). He announced it during the staff retreat for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in November 1967. King planned for a nationwide, interracial coalition of activists to convene in Washington, D.C. They would meet with government officials to demand jobs, unemployment insurance, a fair minimum wage, and education for poor adults and children. Desegregation and voting rights were essential, but King understood that African Americans and other minorities wouldn't experience equality until they had economic security. Through nonviolent direct action, King and the SCLC planned to draw the nation's attention to economic inequality and poverty.
While working on the PPC, King was invited to Memphis to support the striking sanitation workers. He believed the struggle in Memphis exemplified the need for economic equality and social justice that King hoped the Poor People's Campaign would highlight nationally. However, King neither had a chance to march with the Memphis sanitation workers nor to participate in the PPC. On April 4, 1969, King was shot outside his motel room and died just a few hours later.

 

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On 3 April 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered what would become his final speech: "I've Been to the Mountaintop." He spoke to the crowd gathered at the Charles Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee. King came to Memphis to support the Sanitation Workers' Strike. He believed the struggle in Memphis exposed the nationwide need for social and economic justice that he was planning to highlight later that summer during the  Poor People's Campaign.
The next day, on 4 April 1968, while preparing to go out to dinner, King stepped outside the Lorraine motel room 306 to speak with Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) colleagues standing in the parking area below. While standing on the balcony outside his second-floor room, Martin Luther King Jr., was shot. James Earl Ray, a 40-year-old escaped fugitive, fired a single shot that killed King.
Listen to the final episode of this season, where Dr. Carson discusses King's last speech, his sudden death, and the unanswered question King left us with: Where do we go from here?