Flashback: MLK Jr. refutes critics who argued civil rights movement moved too fast

Updated

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream…” speech, given at the March on Washington in 1963, has become such a landmark moment in American history textbooks that it’s hard to remember that King and the civil rights movement were controversial at the time.

But some observers thought King and his brothers and sisters in the civil rights movement were pushing too quickly for change, a criticism that is occasionally raised these days in reference to marriage equality and the LGBT rights movement. 

In an archival clip of King’s August 25, 1963 appearance on Meet the Press–just days before the March on Washington took place–Dr. King responded to that criticism.

His response:

There may be this reaction among many whites in this country. I am sure that many whites in both North and South have the feeling that we are pushing things too fast and that we should cool off a while, slow up for a period. I cannot agree with this at all, because I think there can be no gainsaying of the fact that the Negro has been extremely patient. We have waited for well-nigh 345 years for our basic constitutional and God-given rights, and we still confront the fact that we are at the bottom of the economic ladder. We confront the fact that the gap between the medium income of Negroes and whites is widening every day. We confront the fact that the Negro is still the victim of glaring and notorious conditions of segregation and discrimination. I think instead of slowing up, we must push at this point, and we must continue to move on, and I am convinced that our moving on will not only help the Negro cause, so to speak, but the cause of the whole of America, because the shape of the world today just doesn’t permit our nation the luxury of an anemic democracy.

This week, Rev. Al Sharpton will travel to Washington, DC, to help lead a demonstration to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, and to continue advancing the dream that Dr. King spoke of that day. We want to know how you’re advancing the dream too.

Flashback: MLK Jr. refutes critics who argued civil rights movement moved too fast

Updated