The Greatest MLK Speeches You Never Heard (CNN)
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) — Here’s a pop quiz for anyone who calls the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. an American hero.
Can you name any of his great speeches or written works without citing “I Have a Dream” or the “Letter from Birmingham Jail”?
Most Americans would likely flub this quiz. King may be a national hero whose birthday the country commemorates on Monday, but to many he remains a one-dimensional hero — the vast body of his work unknown. Though he wrote five books and delivered up to 450 speeches a year, he’s defined by one speech and one letter.
What then are the great works by King that never get the attention they deserve?
That’s the question CNN put to some members of King’s inner circle as well as top King scholars. We asked them to pick their favorite overlooked gems from King, any extraordinary spoken or written words people don’t typically hear during King commemorations.
Six entries made our final cut: three sermons and speeches, King’s most radical book, an astonishing letter he wrote as a college student, and a “eulogy” he delivered for a friend that revealed a side of him the public rarely saw.
‘A Time to Break the Silence’
Sermon delivered at Riverside Church in New York on April 4, 1967.
Why it’s important: This was King’s most controversial speech. Even some members of his own staff warned him not to give it. With this sermon, King decisively came out against the Vietnam War at a time when many Americans still supported it. People were furious. President Lyndon Johnson stopped talking to him. Civil rights leaders criticized him, and major newspapers told him to stick to civil rights. Yet King put principle over personal popularity and continued to oppose the war. One year later to the day he gave this speech, King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.
What he said: Money that should have been spent on Johnson’s War on Poverty was being lost in Vietnam’s killing fields. He said, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” The speech distilled King’s belief that racism, economic exploitation and war were all connected as “triple evils.”
READ MORE OF THIS CNN ARTICLE HERE.