6:00am

Sun October 16, 2011
History

Poverty, Martin Luther King's Last Cause

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, host: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall is being dedicated today in Washington. In August, Hurricane Irene forced the delay of the dedication. The ceremony was originally scheduled to coincided with the 48th anniversary of King's famous "I Have A Dream" Speech. Well, Dr. King is best-known for championing civil rights. Toward the end of his life and he focused his attention on fighting poverty.

In 1967, he laid the groundwork for what would become known as the Poor People's Campaign. Later that year, he hinted at the difficulties to come with that anti-poverty effort when he spoke at a victory Baptist Church in Los Angeles.

Dr. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: It's much easier to integrate a bus than it is to eradicate slums. It is much easier to guarantee the right to vote than it is to guarantee an annual income. It is much easier to integrate a public park than it is to create jobs. And the things that we are calling for now will mean that the nation will have to spend billions of dollars in order to solve these problems.

CORNISH: In the year that followed, King continued to press his case that economic inequality would be the next great civil rights battle, as with the speech, his last Sunday sermon at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

JR.: If a man doesn't have a job or an income he has neither are life nor liberty, and the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists. We're coming to ask America to be true to the huge promissory note that it signed years ago. And we're coming to engage in dramatic, nonviolent action to call attention to the gulf between promise and fulfillment, to make the invisible visible. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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