The breathtaking developments of the last few days provide a highly polished mirror on the unsteady American scene: President Johnson’s withdrawal from the election campaign, his peace overture toward Hanoi, the brutal and outrageous murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the widespread rioting and destruction that swept scores of American cities. The stunning suddenness of these events points to an even less predictable future.

King’s murder reinforced Ho Chi Minh’s claim that the United States is a nation of violence and special privilege. The task of clarifying the issues for the world at large now becomes more difficult than ever. Many persons overseas refuse to believe that American intentions in Asia are anti-aggressor and that no minority anywhere is making swifter gains than the American Negro.

America, like other nations, falls embarrassingly short of full devotion to justice and freedom. Even though the Civil War freed the slaves, many Negroes have been second-rate citizens. King emerged a powerful and persuasive leader in the movement to improve opportunities for American Negroes. He helped them develop a sense of racial pride. As that pride quickened, black men’s hearts and consciences burned indignantly over social inequalities in the South and economic inequalities in the North. The American Negro became impatient for change. Had he not become impatient, he probably would still be discriminated against in public places and unwelcome in restaurants and hotels simply because of his pigment. Avowedly as an apostle of nonviolence, King courageously led the struggle against racism. He disowned arrogant concepts of black power but encouraged nonviolent civil disobedience in the name of “higher moral law.”

King was ...

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