Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – “that dream I had, at many points, has turned into a nightmare”

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dr. King this church is as good a place
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as any to go back over your commitment
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to the civil rights movement when you
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went out from here into University and
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then you went to Montgomery Alabama and
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started the bus boycotts there what was
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the philosophy of the civil rights
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movement as you saw it then more than
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ten years ago well I would say then the
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philosophy was that we must go all out
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to use legal and nonviolent methods to
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gain full citizenship rights for the
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Negro people of our country of course
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that particular struggle and that
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philosophy is centered on breaking down
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all of the barriers of legal segregation
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so I would say that in that period the
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basic thrust for the gaining of
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citizenship rights for Negroes was to
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end the humiliation surrounding the
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whole system of legal segregation dr.
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king was there something peculiar to the
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place where you started and the kind of
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people you attracted I mean by that
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there was a strong attachment on the
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part of your parishioners in Montgomery
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to the church they were older people
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weren’t they yes I would say by and
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large they were older people who
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participated in the boycott because they
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were the ones using the bus bus more
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than anybody else and Montgomery was a
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community predominantly Church Senate so
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that it was very easy to get to the vast
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majority of Negroes because they were in
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some way connected with a church in the
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community in addition to your commitment
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to the idea of non-violence wasn’t it
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also the only thing you could do the
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white community having the monopoly on
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once that if you had tried violence they
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would have met it with violence it was
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the only device open to you wasn’t it
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well I put it another way that morally I
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was led to non-violence because I felt
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that it was the best moral way to deal
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with the problem we were seeking to
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establish a just society and it was my
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feeling then and it is my feeling now
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that violence is certainly much more
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socially destructive and it creates many
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more social problems than it solves so I
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was led to non-violence for deep moral
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reasons now there is no doubt about the
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fact that in our struggle in Montgomery
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and all over the United States for that
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matter non-violence is also practically
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sound it would just be impractical for
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the Negro to turn to violence he has
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neither the instruments now the
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techniques of violence we about ten or
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eleven percent of the total population
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of the nation and I would say we about
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one-tenth of one percent of the
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firepower so it would just be totally
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impractical and unwise and unrealistic
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for the Negro to think of violence well
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I saw this in the beginning and
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Montgomery but this wasn’t the basic
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reason that I turned to non-violence and
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that I believed in it as a philosophy I
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turned to it because I felt that it was
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the morally excellent way to deal with
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the problem of racial injustice in our
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country is there something about
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non-violence that made it and I used
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that in the past tense that made it more
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useful amongst other Negroes than the
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ghetto Negroes of the north I would say
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there’s anything that makes it more
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useful to southern Negroes I think it is
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true that we’ve had more nonviolent
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movements in the south because
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the problem for many years was more
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crystallized and in a sense more visible
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in the south we didn’t have many civil
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rights activities on a massive scale in
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the north until three or four years ago
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so I would say that we just haven’t had
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a chance to experiment on a broad scale
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with non-violence in the northern ghetto
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I have the feeling that non-violence is
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as applicable and workable in the
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northern ghetto as it is in the South
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now there’s a larger job there the
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frustrations at points are much deeper
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the bitterness is deeper and I think
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that’s because in the South we can see
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pockets of progress here and there we’ve
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really made some strides that are very
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visible and every southern Negro knows
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that he can do things today that he
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couldn’t do four or five years ago where
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and in the North the Negro sees on their
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retrogress and he doesn’t find it as
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easy to get his vision centered on his
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target the target of opposition as he
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does in the south consequently this is
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made for despair and it men appoint
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cynicism a feeling that you can’t win
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and it simply means that we’ve got to
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develop in the mouth a massive job of
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organization and mobilizing forces and
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resources to deal with the problem and
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there have been ghettos of the north
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just as we’ve done it in the south when
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the south particularly in Alabama you
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had visible villains Jim Clark Bull
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Connor cattle prods police dogs but in
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the North you don’t have those visible
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villains isn’t it hard to get your
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people aroused and directed it’s
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something that isn’t visible well that’s
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exactly right and this is what I was
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saying when I said it’s harder to see
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your target in the South in the
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nonviolent movement we were aided always
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the whole by the brutality of our
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opponent it isn’t the same way in the
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north the other thing is that you don’t
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have legal segregation in the north as
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you do in the south so it is much more
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difficult to get people to see exactly
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what you’re doing but it isn’t an
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impossible job it’s it’s a hard it’s a
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tedious job at times to get people to be
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aroused from their apathetic slumbers
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but I still feel that Negroes in the
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north can be motivated just as they were
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motivated in the south and I think it’s
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time goes on with the growing economic
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deprivation in the Negro community it
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will even be easier because people will
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come deceive and not only is something
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wrong in general but something is wrong
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in particular in their own economic and
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housing situations what is it
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I mean how do you find it it’s very
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subtle in the north is it not it’s
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subtle but it’s becoming much more
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visible anybody can see that the schools
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are more segregated in the north today
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than they were in 1954 when the Supreme
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Court rendered its decision declaring
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segregation unconstitutional anybody can
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look around the ghetto and see the
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ghetto schools are predominantly
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segregated and devoid of quality anyone
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who moves through a major ghetto of our
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country will see the housing conditions
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people don’t have to be reminded that
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they are forced to live in slums and
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many instances and they often
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rat-infested vermin feel slums and they
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didn’t too hard to see the exploitation
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that the Negro confronting the ghetto
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where he is forced to pay more for less
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and constantly trying to make ends meet
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but because of either no job as a result
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of unemployment our job that is so
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economically unprofitable that the
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person can make
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I mean and I think they see all of these
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things and more and more they are coming
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to see them because before the people of
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the North were looking to the south and
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they supported the struggles of the
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south now they are coming to see that
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their problems are very real and they’ve
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got organized to grapple with them
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was there something hypocritical about
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the fact that the South existed in the
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North could point the finger and then
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when the civil rights acts were passed
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in the early 60s you couldn’t point the
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finger anymore well there was no doubt
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about the hypocrisy of large segments of
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the nation on the whole question of
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racial equality I think the best example
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is that many of the senators from the
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north and the West and congressmen
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generally who voted for civil rights
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legislation in 6 to 4 and even 6 to 5 of
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the voting rights bill refused last year
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to vote for civil rights legislation
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because it dealt with an issue
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applicable to the north the whole
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housing question and this it seems to me
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was the greatest expression of the
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hypocrisy of many of our citizens and
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many of the senators and congressmen of
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the nul but isn’t that part of the
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dilemma now that people knew that
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Negroes were being being denied what was
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guaranteed to them by the Constitution
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by the fact that they were citizens of
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this country then when they were given
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those rights do you feel the white
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community said well we’ve given them all
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that we have now it’s up to them well I
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think the dilemma is much deeper and I
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think one during this period of
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transition has to be very honest with
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America and honesty impels me to admit
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that America has broad races elements
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still alive racism is still existing in
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American society in many areas of the
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society northern South and the other
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thing is
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that there has never been a single solid
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determined commitment of large segments
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of white camara
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America on the whole question of racial
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equality I think we have to see that
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vacillation has always existed
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ambivalence has always existed and this
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to me is the so-called white backlash is
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merely a new name for an old phenomenon
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I see the white backlash is a
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continuation of the same ambivalence and
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vacillation of white america and the
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whole question of racial justice that
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existed since the founding of our nation
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I think the other thing that we must see
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at this time is that many of the people
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who supported us in Selma in Birmingham
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were really outraged about the extremist
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behavior toward Negroes but they were
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not at that moment and they are not now
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committed to genuine equality for
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Negroes it’s much easier to integrate a
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lunch counter than it is to guarantee an
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annual income for instance to get rid of
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poverty for Negroes and all poor people
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it’s much easier to integrate a bus than
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it is to make genuine integration of
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reality and quality education a reality
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in our schools it’s much easier to
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integrate even a public park than it is
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to get rid of slums and I think we are
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in a new era a new phase of the struggle
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where we have moved from a struggle for
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decency which characterized our struggle
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for 10 or 12 years to a struggle for
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genuine equality and this is where we
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are getting the resistance because there
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was never any intention to go this fall
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people were reacting to Bull Connor and
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to Jim Clarke rather than acting in good
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faith for the realization of genuine
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equality do you think white people in
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this country and I’m talking about non
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segregationist people devoid or thinking
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they’re devoid of racism
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do you have any idea of what they want
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the Negro to be in America well it
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depends on the level that we are talking
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here because I think you have to make a
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distinction between the people who are
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genuinely and absolutely committed in
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the white community on the question of
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of racial equality and I must confess
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that I think they are a very small
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minority I think the vast majority of
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white Americans will go but so far it’s
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a kind of installment plan for equality
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and they always looking for an excuse to
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go but so far why are they looking for
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the excuse what is it about the Negro I
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mean every other group that came as an
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immigrant somehow not easily but somehow
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got around it is it just the fact that
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Negroes are black that’s a part of it
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and growing that grows out of something
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else
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you can’t thing if I anything without de
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personalizing that something if you use
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something as a means to an end at that
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moment you make it a thing and you de
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personal eyes it the fact is that the
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Negro was a slave in this country for
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244 years that act that was a willful
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thing that was done de Negro was brought
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he and changed treated in very human
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fashion and this led to the thing if
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occasion of the Negro so he was not
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looked upon as a person he was not
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looked upon as a human being with the
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same status and worth as other human
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beings and the other thing is that human
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beings cannot continue to do wrong
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without eventually rationalizing that
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wrong so slavery was justified morally
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biologically theoretically if
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scientifically everything else and it
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seems to me that white America must see
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that no other ethnic group has been a
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slave on American soil that is one thing
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other immigrant groups have had to face
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the other thing is that the color became
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a stigma American Society made the
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Negroes color a stigma and that can
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never be overlooked so I think these
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things absolutely necessary the other
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thing is that America freed the slaves
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in nineteen I’m in 1863 through the
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Emancipation Proclamation of Abraham
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Lincoln but gave the slaves no land
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nothing in reality and as a matter of
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fact to get started on at the same time
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America was giving away millions of
15:56
acres of land in the West and the
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Midwest which meant that there was a
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willingness to give the white peasants
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from Europe an economic base and yet it
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refused to give its black peasants from
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Africa who came here involuntarily
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in Chains and had worked free for 244
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years any kind of economic base and so
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emancipation for the Negro was really
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freedom to hung it was freedom to the
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winds and rains of heaven it was freedom
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without food heed a land to cultivate
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and therefore was freedom and famine at
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the same time and when white Americans
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tell the Negro to lift himself by his
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own bootstraps they don’t owe they don’t
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look over the legacy of slavery and
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segregation I believe we ought to do all
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we can and seek to lift ourselves by our
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bootstraps but it’s a cruel jest to say
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to a bootless man that he ought to lift
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himself by his own bootstraps and many
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negroes by the thousands and millions
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have been left bootless as a result of
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all of these years of oppression and as
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a result of a society that deliberately
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made his color of stigma and something
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worthless and degrading apart from
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wanting to live better which all of us
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want to do to raise one’s children in a
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better way to be better
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does the Negro in America know what he
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wants to be I’m convinced that almost
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every Negro in this country other than
17:26
those who have been
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so scarred by the system that they’ve
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become pathological in the process and
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we all have to battle with pathology
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nobody really knows what it means to be
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a negro unless one can really experience
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it and I know we all have to battle with
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this constant drain of a feeling of
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nobody nice but in spite of this I think
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the vast majority of Negroes in this
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country know that they want to be people
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they want to be men they want equality
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period it just boils down to that and we
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haven’t been able to be people we
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haven’t been men because of all of the
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conditions that we’ve lived with and the
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syndrome of deprivation surrounding
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conditions rather than housing in the
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economic area or in schools in the
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vicious credit practices that we face in
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the ghetto and all of the problems of
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closed doors and constant defeats but in
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spite of all this I think we all know
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basically that we want to be men we want
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to be persons judged not on the basis of
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the color of our skin but on the basis
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of the content of our character but you
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know that many young Negroes don’t want
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anything that smacks of the American
18:51
white middle class but do they want
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something that smacks of whatever is the
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black middle class or do they just not
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want bourgeois values which after all
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the basis of this democracy well I think
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we have to see what they are saying I
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would be the first to agree that
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integration does not mean giving up
19:16
everything that has an afro-american
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taint so to speak a background I think
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there are certain unique things within
19:28
any culture and certain cultural
19:30
patterns that when you get to the
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process of amalgamation can really lift
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the whole culture and it seems to me
19:39
that integration at its best
19:42
is the opportunity to participate in the
19:45
beauty of diversity I think the other
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thing that we’ve got to see is that
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these young people are saying that there
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must be a revolution of values in our
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country as Jimmy Baldwin said on one
20:01
occasion what advantage is there in
20:03
being integrated into a burning house
20:05
and I feel that there is a need for a
20:09
revolution of values in America because
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some of the values that presently exists
20:16
are certainly out of line with the
20:19
values and the idealistic structure that
20:24
brought our nation into being
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unfortunately we haven’t been true to
20:27
these own ideals and many of the values
20:29
of so called white middle-class
20:33
scientist society of values that need to
20:37
be reviewed and re-evaluated and in a
20:40
real sense they need to be changed so I
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think the young people in the Negro
20:44
community who were raising these
20:46
questions are raising some very profound
20:48
questions about our total society in
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other words they are saying that there
20:53
must be a restructuring of the
20:56
architecture of our society where values
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are concerned and with this I would
21:02
agree with so in the quest for
21:03
integration I think we can offer our
21:06
whole nation something because there are
21:08
three evils in our nation it’s not only
21:10
racism but economic exploitation of
21:14
poverty would be one and then militarism
21:16
and I think in a sense and in a very
21:19
real sense these three are tied
21:20
inextricably together and we aren’t
21:22
going to get rid of one without getting
21:24
rid of the other we you stood in the
21:26
Lincoln Memorial that day in August 63
21:30
and you said I had a dream did that
21:34
dream envision that you could see a war
21:42
in Asia
21:45
preventing the federal government doing
21:48
for the needless preventing the society
21:50
doing for the Negroes of that what you
21:52
think had to be done no I didn’t
21:55
envision that then I must confess that
21:57
that period was a great period of hope
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for me and I’m sure many others all
22:04
across the nation many of the Negroes
22:07
who had about lost hope saw a solid
22:11
decade of progress in the south and in
22:16
1954 which was I mean six to four
22:20
nineteen six to three nine years after
22:23
the Supreme Court’s decision to be in
22:25
the march on Washington meant a great
22:27
deal it was a high moment a great
22:29
watershed moment but I must confess that
22:33
that dream that I had that day has a
22:35
many points turned into a nightmare now
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I’m not one to lose hope I keep on
22:42
hoping I still have faith in the future
22:45
but I’ve had to analyze many things over
22:49
the last few years and I would say over
22:51
the last few months I’ve gone through a
22:53
lot of souls such an in agonizing
22:56
moments and I’ve come to see that we
22:59
have many more difficult days ahead and
23:02
some of the old optimism was a little
23:06
superficial and now it must be tempered
23:08
with a solid realism and I think the
23:10
realistic fact is that we still have a
23:13
long long way to go and that we are
23:17
involved in a war on Asian soil which if
23:22
not checked and stop and pause in the
23:25
very soul of our nation dr. King even if
23:29
there had not been a war in Asia would
23:32
you still not have had this nightmare
23:34
insofar as the Negro movement for
23:38
equality then touched on two things that
23:40
the white community holds sacred
23:42
their children and the property oh I
23:47
have no doubt that we would have been
23:49
encountered great difficulties great
23:52
problems of resistance if the war had
23:55
not
23:56
been in existence so that I’m not going
23:59
to say that all of our problems will be
24:01
solved at the war in Vietnam has ended
24:03
but I do say that the wall makes it
24:06
infinitely more difficult to deal with
24:09
these problems when a nation becomes
24:13
obsessed with the guns of war it loses
24:19
its social perspective and programs of
24:21
social uplift suffer this is just a fact
24:25
of history so that we do face many more
24:29
difficulties as a result of the war it’s
24:32
much more difficult to really arouse the
24:36
conscience during a time of war notice
24:38
the other day some weeks ago a Negro was
24:40
shot down in Chicago and it was a clear
24:42
case of police brutality that was on
24:46
page 30 of the paper but on page one at
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the top was 708 a Vietcong kill that is
24:53
something about a war like this that
24:56
makes people insensitive it dulls the
24:58
conscience it strengthens the forces of
25:01
reaction and it brings into being
25:04
bitterness and hatred and violence and
25:07
it’s strengthen the military-industrial
25:08
complex of our country
25:10
and it’s made our job much more
25:13
difficult because I think we can go
25:15
along with some programs if we didn’t
25:18
have this war on our hands
25:20
that would cause people to adjust to new
25:25
developments just as they did in the
25:27
south they said they’d never ride the
25:28
bus with us blood would flow in the
25:30
streets they wouldn’t go to school and
25:32
all of these things but when people came
25:34
to see that they had to do it because
25:36
the law insisted they finally adjusted
25:39
and I think white people all over this
25:41
country will adjust once the nation
25:44
makes it clear that in schools and
25:47
housing we’ve got to learn to live
25:50
together as brothers I think the biggest
25:52
problem now is that we got our gains
25:55
over the last 12 years at bargain rates
25:57
so to speak didn’t cost the nation
26:00
anything in fact it helped the economic
26:02
side of the nation to integrate lunch
26:04
counters and public accommodations
26:06
it didn’t cost the nation anything to
26:09
get the right to vote establish and now
26:13
we are confronting issues that cannot be
26:16
solved without costing the nation
26:19
billions of dollars now I think this is
26:21
where we are getting our greatest
26:22
resistance they may put it on many other
26:25
things but we can’t get rid of slums and
26:27
poverty without a cost in donation
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something

MLK Talks ‘New Phase’ Of Civil Rights Struggle, 11 Months Before His Assassination | NBC News

Apr 4, 2018In 1967, at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, Martin Luther King spoke with NBC News’ Sander Vanocur about the “new phase” of the struggle for “genuine equality.”

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