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"Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam"

Speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. against the "triple evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism." 

Sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on April 30, 1967

Audio Excerpt

While I believe you can still listen to this speach on youtube, I am not certain of it's public domain/fair use status and cannot link to it from here. However, this speech is quite similar to (in fact it is a highly edited version of) it's predessesor Beyond Vietnam / A Time to Break Silence, the full text and audio of which is available.


This speech was released by Black Forum records, a subsidiary of Motown, and went on to win a Grammy in 1970 for the Best Spoken Word Recording.

News Coverage / Interview

In 2007, NPR covered a new collection of Dr. King's papers going on display including this speech. The following is an excerpt from the interview with Clayborne Carson (editor of The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.) where they discuss King's reasons for being against the war, which include his political, economic and religious/spiritual concerns:

Ms. ELIZABETH MULLER: And there is a manuscript leaf that accompanies the heavily-amended version of the Riverside speech in which Dr. King has written out a heading, Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam. And the first reason that he gives is that thou shall not kill. Somewhere along the line people seem to have forgotten that he was a minister.

LOHR: There was another reason King opposed the war, says Stanford historian Clayborn Carson, director of the King Papers Project.

Professor CLAYBORN CARSON (Stanford University): King had spent the summer of 1966 in a ghetto in Chicago, and that had led him to understand the way in which the war was having this devastating effect on the inner city.

Dr. KING: As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask, and rightly so, what about Vietnam?

Prof. CARSON: He understood that he could not really make a strong argument against the racial violence at home unless he took a stand against the war.

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