Peace and Freedom: The Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements of the 1960s

By Simon Hall | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
Black Moderates

Johnson needs a consensus …ifwe are not with him on Vietnam, then he
is not going to be with us on civil rights.

Whitney M. Young, Jr., 1966

On Tuesday April 4, 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr., launched a powerful attack on America’s military involvement in Southeast Asia. Speaking from New York City’s historic Riverside Church, the nation’s most prominent civil rights leader condemned the Vietnam War for undermining the war on poverty and for disproportionately taking African Americans to die in Vietnam for freedoms that they did not yet enjoy at home. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) president lambasted the American government as the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” and called upon the Johnson administration to take the initiative in ending the war by halting the bombing and negotiating with the NLF. King argued that the Vietnam War was, in essence, a civil war and that America was betraying her own revolutionary heritage by pursuing a reactionary foreign policy. Asserting that the war was “but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit,” King stated that “if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘personoriented’ society.”1 Although King had spoken out against the war as early as March 1965, he had tempered his criticisms and been unwilling to break completely with the Johnson Administration.2 But by the spring of 1967, with the war abroad escalating while the domestic war on poverty was being cut back, King felt that he could no longer remain silent.

Although King was pleased with his speech, the response to it was far from favorable. Unsurprisingly, the federal government reacted badly. Presidential aide John Roche told Lyndon Johnson that King had “thrown in with the commies.”3 Opinion polls indicated that around 50 percent of African Americans disagreed with King’s antiwar stance, and the SCLC leader was attacked in the pages of many of the nation’s newspapers.4

-80-

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Peace and Freedom: The Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements of the 1960s
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - The Organizing Tradition 13
  • Chapter 2 - Black Power 39
  • Chapter 3 - Black Moderates 80
  • Chapter 4 - Racial Tensions 105
  • Chapter 5 - Radicalism and Respectability 141
  • Chapter 6 - New Coalitions, Old Problems 167
  • Conclusion 187
  • Notes 195
  • Bibliography 235
  • Index 255
  • Acknowledgments 263
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