Martin’s Last Words

Look, I don’t believe that ESP is real. I don’t believe people can see into the future, or even have premonitions. But read this last paragraph of Rev. King’s last speech, the day before he was assassinated.

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

Whole text here.

Weird. This is how legends get started.

5 replies on “Martin’s Last Words”

That’s enormously fun. To know an important figure had come to peace in his own time is amazing.

Clearly the successful campaign of Barack Obama is an important milestone in our journey to the promised land.

Greetings, Jim,

I think that King was less prescient than pragmatic. April 4 was one year to the day from the day he gave his “Beyond Vietnam” address at New York’s Riverside Church (link:
publications/speeches/Beyond_Vietnam.pdf). In that speech, he publicly tweaked the noses of the military-industrial complex. They could stand his Civil Rights activities,but when he moved into issues affecting the making of major money, he stepped too far. So, it seems to me, they sent a clear message to any troublemakers who might imitate King’s action. Support for my view can be found here:

So I think he was a pragmatist who realized that the Powers That Be were not pleased, and he (who knew symbols and their power so well) may also have recognized the symbolic power of the April 4 date. Whether the last part is true or not, he had experienced enough death threats, yes, to warrant that section in his speech in Memphis, which simultaneously expressed his trust in God, and functioned thereby to strengthen the people hearing him.

The celebration of King’s holiday in January, near his birthday, may obscure the whole point of his living and dying, unless savvy people continue his efforts and explicitly link their actions to his.

Bob Howard

I agree with everyone here. It is not remarkable that King knew people were trying to kill him. It is also pretty awesome that he was aware of how real the threat was and continued on. And I think it is pretty clear that his message is being transformed into the less radical love everyone message, rather that the harder edged message of justice.

I did want to point out how you can definitely see how the story of his last days could be transformed into a story that he willing went to his death. It reminds me of a class (I think Matt) had at Northwestern where the professor commented on how icons JFK and Elvis have both enjoyed cultural myths that they never really died.

Leave a Reply