A few months before his assassination in Memphis (April 4, 1968) Dr. King spoke to the staff of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference meeting. Preparing them for the Poor People’s Campaign scheduled for the spring of 1968. This is an excerpt from Dr. King’s last thorough evaluation of “the movement”. It appears Dr. King was embracing a fundamental change of political philosophy.
NON-VIOLENCE WAS THE ANSWER TO THE WOES OF THE WORLD.
I’ve decided that on this question of non-violence I’m going to stand by it. I’m going to love because it’s just lovely to love. I’m going to be non-violent because I believe it is the answer to mankind’s problems. I’m not going to bargain with reality, but I’m going to stand by non-violence in spite of.
So I say to you that I’ve taken a vow. I, Martin Luther King, take thee, Non-violence, to be my wedded wife, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer.
This isn’t a bargaining experience— for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. I’m going on in the faith and with that determination. I believe if we maintain faith and then escalate our actions we will be able to go to Washington, and we will be able to create vibrant movement throughout the cities of our country.
By the thousands we will move, and many will wonder where we are coming from. Our only answer will be that we are coming up out of great trials and tribulations. Some of us will come from Mississippi. Some of us will come from Alabama, some from Chicago, some from Detroit, some from Cleveland, but we will all be coming from the same condition.
We will be seeking a city whose builder and maker is God. If we will do this, we will be able to turn this nation upside down and right side up. We may just be able to speed up the day when men everywhere will be able to cry out that we are children of God, made in his image. This will be a glorious day. At that moment the morning stars will sing together, and the souls of God will shout for joy.
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference speech in its entirety.