A Time to Break Silence: Dr. Martin Luther King Speaks in Opposition the Vietnam War


Dr. King speaking at Riverside Church in New York City

Tuesday, April 4, is the 40th anniversary of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.”  The nearly hour long speech was delivered at New York City’s Riverside Church to a crowd of approximately 3,000.  King was assassinated one year to the day after this major speech opposing the nation’s involvement in the war in Vietnam.

He began by saying his conscience required him to stand up and speak against the “madness of Vietnam,” — despite people urging him to stay focused on Civil Rights and amid accusations of communist leanings

Dr. King speaks to the press outside New York’s Riverside Church
(Photo by Gene Kappock/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

King declared that there was a common link being formed between the civil rights and peace movements.  He proposed that the United States stop all bombing of North and South Vietnam; declare a unilateral truce in the hope that it would lead to peace talks; set a date for withdrawal of all troops from Vietnam; and give the National Liberation Front (Viet Cong) a role in negotiations. 

I encourage you to listen to King’s speech.  It is available on YouTube.  I had thought to include a few select quotes to show his power and eloquence, but gave up.  There was too much rich material to isolate a few sentences.  Listen and you will be rewarded with a memorable experience.     

Herb Hartsook

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