Martin Luther King’s 1967 Riverside Church Speech

Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence

Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam

Delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr
April 1967
At Manhattan’s Riverside Church

“OVER THE PAST TWO YEARS, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say. Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people, they ask. And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstanding, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorage, leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia.

Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reasons to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the NLF, but rather to my fellow Americans who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.
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Are you prescriptive or descriptive?

Being behind a camera, in front of the camera, is my own little deconstructionist niche.

– Joshua Leonard

The first issue of Popular Linguistics, an online magazine, is now available for people who enjoy that sort of thing. For me, an unbridled malefactor in the realm of lay-lie-lay, an unapologetic apostrophe punter, and some would say a comatose abuser of commas, the welcome mat may not be out. But I expect Beth, with her memories of Edinburgh and Austin and her adoration of most things Language Log will spend some time enjoyably immersed in the pixels presented by editor and publisher Douglas S. Bigham. Bigham says he hopes to serve a general, educated, scientifically-inclined audience, the same type of readers who, for example, enjoy Scientific American or Discover. (Popular linguist and wearer of the Safire crown, Ben Zimmer welcomed the new linguistic populist at Language Log yesterday).

The pseudonymous “Language Hat” on his eponymous blog also welcomed the new arrival yesterday. Many of those who commented on that post share my discomfort with the white on black typography. Bigham promises a shift to something easier on the eyes in the February issue.