Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy is typically erased of all fire, unless it’s the fire (exaggerated by history) to integrate Black and White Americans.
Though he walked in the radical tradition of Black liberation theology and spoke out against domestic and foreign terrorism with zeal, many in White America have rebranded him into a gentle, color-blind giant whose only interest in White supremacy lied in ensuring that Black Americans could dine at its table.
That wasn’t the real Dr. King. That wasn’t our Dr. King.
In a rarely shared speech, Dr.King speaks about self-determination and how language is used to further oppress and stigmatize Black Americans:
I come here tonight to plead with you. Believe in yourself and believe that you are somebody. I said to a group last night: Nobody else can do this for us. No document can do this for us. No Lincolnian emancipation proclamation can do this for us. No Johnsonian civil rights bill can do this for us.
If the Negro is to be free, he must move down into the inner resources of his own soul and sign with a pen and ink of self-assertive manhood his own emancipation proclamation.
Don’t let anybody take your manhood. Be proud of our heritage…we don’t have anything to be ashamed of.
Somebody told a lie one day. They couched it in language. They made everything Black ugly and evil. Look in your dictionaries and see the synonyms of the word Black. It’s always something degrading and low and sinister. Look at the word White, it’s always something pure, high and clean. Well I want to get the language right tonight.
I want to get the language so right that everyone here will cry out: ‘Yes, I’m Black, I’m proud of it. I’m Black and I’m beautiful!”
Watch full clip below: