Poverty, Martin Luther King's Last Cause

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/141395743/141395892" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The Martin Luther King Jr. memorial on the National Mall is being dedicated Sunday in Washington. Host Audie Cornish reflects on some of King's final words about economic injustice in America.


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, on the National Mall, is being dedicated today in Washington. In August, Hurricane Irene forced a delay of the dedication. The ceremony was originally scheduled to coincide with the 48th anniversary of King's famous "I Have A Dream" Speech. Well, Dr. King is best-known for championing civil rights. Toward the end of his life, he focused his attention on fighting poverty.

In 1967, he laid the groundwork for what would become known as the Poor People's Campaign. Later that year, he hinted at the difficulties to come with that anti-poverty effort when he spoke at the Victory Baptist Church in Los Angeles.


DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: It's much easier to integrate a bus than it is to eradicate slums. It is much easier to guarantee the right to vote than it is to guarantee an annual income. It is much easier to integrate a public park than it is to create jobs. And the things that we are calling for now will mean that the nation will have to spend billions of dollars in order to solve these problems.

CORNISH: In the year that followed, King continued to press his case that economic inequality would be the next great civil rights battle - as with this speech, his last Sunday sermon at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.


KING: If a man doesn't have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty, and the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists. We're coming to ask America to be true to the huge promissory note that it signed years ago. And we're coming to engage in dramatic, nonviolent action, to call attention to the gulf between promise and fulfillment, to make the invisible visible.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from