As the semester winds to a close, I am trying to carve out time to go the Robert W. Woodruff Library at the Atlanta University Center to look through the Martin Luther King, Jr., Collection. I am working on a project that brings Vietnam to the forefront in our understanding of King. As I mentioned in Another April 4, King’s public stand at Riverside Church on that day in 1967 highlighted a prophetic moment for me.
But as I explained to my father last week when he asked if I was done researching, my good days mean I can only get through four or five documents because I am transcribing the entire document. Today was one of those days. I discovered a fifteen page document titled “Causalities of Vietnam” delivered at the United Nations Plaza on April 15—eleven days after the Riverside Church speech. The speech described the reasons for King’s opposition to the war in Vietnam. Did I say fifteen pages? That find might have been enough for the day, but later in the afternoon I found a copy of the same titled speech given on February 25—a full month-and-a-half before the Riverside speech—for something called “The Nation Institute” in Los Angeles. It is clear to me now that King and some of his closest lieutenants spent most of 1966 and early 1967 priming the pump with speeches about Vietnam. When he stepped into the pulpit at Riverside Church he appeared with a peace organization and that makes a difference. I’ll continue to think about what that difference means for King and Vietnam.