Sunday, January 14, 2007

I've Been to the Mountain Top

The ultimate weakness of violence
is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate....
Returning violence for violence multiples violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

-- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

According to the excellent Civil Rights history At Canaan's Edge: American in the King Years 1965-68, by Taylor Branch, Martin Luther King was well aware that his position as the leader of a resistance movement put his life in danger. He often flirted with the idea of himself as a martyr. And on a Sunday in 1968, just a month or so before his assassination, he told his congregation what a eulogist might say at his death. Writes Branch, "The eulogist should omit all his honors and attainments simply to testify that King tried to love his enemies, comfort prisoners, 'be right on the war question,' and feed the hungry." King continued: "Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum for justice! Say that I was a drum major for peace--I was a drum major for righteousness--and all of the other shallow things will not matter."

I bring this up as a preface to the final minute of the final speech King gave on the eve of his death, Aug. 3, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. It's an emotional and ecstatic piece of oration, full of an imminence and foresight that is unnerving. It never fails to give me chills.

I've Been to the Mountain Top - Martin Luther King Jr.

(Full speech is found here.)

Video of the speech:

King's speech against the Viet Nam War:

In addition, listen here to this wrenching and impassioned speech given on June 17, 1966, at Zion Hill Church in Los Angeles (via

In honor of the day, The Driftwood Singers Present some freedom music, by free people for free people. Mountain top people.

A Change is Going to Come - Baby Huey

People Get Ready - Bob Dylan

On a Turquoise Cloud - Duke Ellington & His Orchestra

Chilren Go Where I Send You (Live at the Village Gate) - Nina Simone

Good Golly Miss Molly - Little Richard

Fuck A War - The Geto Boys
(hat tip: Moistworks)

PSA - Jay Z

Train to Rhodesia (1975) - Big Youth (YouTube)

I Got a Bag of My Own - James Brown

Perhaps Mr. Poncho will reach into his bag 'o tricks and pluck out some choice J.M. Gates samples to recall the roots of King's oratory style.

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