"I'm not fearing any man!"

Today is the anniversary of what is known as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I've been to the mountaintop" speech, delivered on this date in 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. He was assassinated the following day.

You can listen to the speech, watch a segment and read the text here.

Next to his "I have a dream" speech this is one of my favorites. I'm not a person of faith but King's breadth and depth in religious allusion in this speech makes one humble. In it he spoke of the sanitation worker's strike he was there to support, the overcoming of injustice through history, and the war in Vietnam. He spoke of the progress made by the Civil Rights Movement, the political and economic tools that could be used to further the movement, and an attempt made on his life by a crazed woman who stabbed him with a knife. His exposition on this last point is the best, skip to about 4/5 the way through the audio player to hear it.

This speech is incredibly ominous. Not only does thunder roll in the background, but King declared at the end:

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! So I'm happy tonight, I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man!
They say he was so overcome at the end they had to help him to his seat. NPR covered this anniversary today and interviewed Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles who attended the speech. He would say to young people who have had less exposure to King that "we're not going to get to the place where we can say, 'Dr. King's dream has been realized. Now we can go to the beach.' That's not going to happen."


On this topic something reached the news recently about a personal manuscript written by Abraham Lincoln in 1864, shortly after the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address. It was a reply to a letter sent from an abolitionist schoolteacher on behalf of 195 boys and girls from Concord, Massachusetts asking him to "free all the little slave children." In his reply he wrote "Please tell these little people I am very glad their young hearts are so full of just and generous sympathy and that, while I have not the power to grant all they ask, I trust they will remember that God has, and that, as it seems, He wills to do it."