I Have Been to the Mountaintop: The Speeches and Writings of Martin Luther King

January 15, 2019 | Bill V.

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If Martin Luther King hadn't been assassinated in 1968, then January 15 2019 would have been his 90th birthday. To honour his legacy I wanted to share some of his writings and speeches. How better to know a person than through their own words?

1968 Toronto Star Archives photo by Barry Philip, throng of mourners for the death of Martin Luther King  as Nathan Phillips Square
1968 Toronto Star Archives photo by Barry Philip. 20,000 mourners throng Nathan Phillips Square to mourn death of Martin Luther King.

On April 3, 1968 King delivered his final (and prophetic) speech at the Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ headquarters). This was the night before he was shot and killed. The full text of the speech, "I've been to the mountaintop", is available but the lines that stand out to me (and many others) are:

"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. So 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."


Dr. King's last speech "I've been to the mountaintop" was actually around his support for the Memphis sanitation workers and their strike for better pay and unionization. This aspect of King's work around economic justice is not as well known (or remembered?) today as his civil rights work.

All labor has dignity

All Labor Has Dignity

"An unprecedented and timely collection of Dr. King's speeches on labor rights and economic justice. People forget that Dr. King was every bit as committed to economic justice as he was to ending racial segregation. He fought throughout his life to connect the labor and civil rights movements, envisioning them as twin pillars for social reform."

A call to conscience  the landmark speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King  Jr.

A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


The words of Martin Luther King  Jr.

The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Includes 120 excerpts from speeches, sermons, and writings, and chronology."


Martin Luther King Jr "I have a Dream" speech address at March on Washington August 28, 1963. Washington, D.C.


A testament of hope  the essential writings and speeches of Martin Luther King  Jr.

A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.


Going down Jericho Road  the Memphis strike  Martin Luther King's last campaign

Going down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King's Last Campaign.


The radical King

The Radical King.

"The radical King was a democratic socialist who sided with poor and working people in the class struggle taking place in capitalist societies . . . includes twenty-three selections, curated and introduced by Dr. Cornel West, that illustrate King's revolutionary vision, underscoring his identification with the poor, his unapologetic opposition to the Vietnam War, and his crusade against global imperialism."



Martin Luther King, Jr. On NBC's Meet the Press (1965), NBC News.



A time to break silence  the essential works of Martin Luther King  Jr. for students

A Time to Break Silence: The Essential Works of Martin Luther King, Jr. for Students.



In a single garment of destiny  a global vision of justice

"In a Single Garment of Destiny": A Global Vision of Justice.

"The first book to treat King's positions on global liberation struggles through the prism of his own words and activities. From the pages of this extraordinary collection, King emerges not only as an advocate for global human rights but also as a towering figure..."



Martin Luther King, Jr. "On Vietnam".

"In this sermon, delivered in April 1967 at Riverside Church in New York City, Martin Luther King, Jr. lays out his argument against American involvement in the Vietnam War."


Where do we go from here chaos or community

Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?

"In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., isolated himself from the demands of the civil rights movement, rented a house in Jamaica with no telephone, and labored over his final manuscript. In this prophetic work, which has been unavailable for more than ten years, he lays out his thoughts, plans, and dreams for America's future, including the need for better jobs, higher wages, decent housing, and quality education. With a universal message of hope that continues to resonate, King demanded an end to global suffering, asserting that humankind-for the first time-has the resources and technology to eradicate poverty."


Dr. Martin Luther King  Jr A Historical Perspective DVD

Dr Martin Luther King Jr: A Historical Perspective (DVD).

These are some other DVDs that may be of interest as well:


The autobiography of Martin Luther King  Jr.

The autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.


Trumpet of Conscience

The Trumpet of Conscience

"In November and December 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered five lectures for the renowned Massey Lecture Series of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The collection was immediately released as a book under the title Conscience for Change,but after King?s assassination in 1968, it was republished as The Trumpet of Conscience.The collection sums up his lasting creed and is his final testament on racism, poverty, and war. Each oration in this volume encompasses a distinct theme and speaks prophetically to today?s perils, addressing issues of equality, conscience and war, the mobilization of young people, and nonviolence. Collectively, they reveal some of King?s most introspective reflections and final impressions of the movement while illustrating how he never lost sight of our shared goals for justice. The book concludes with "A Christmas Sermon on Peace"-a powerful lecture that was broadcast live from Ebenezer Baptist Church on Christmas Eve in 1967. In it King articulates his long-term vision of nonviolence as a path to world peace."


Why We Can't Wait

Why We Can't Wait.


A gift of love sermons from strength to love and other preachings

A Gift of Love: Sermons from Strength to Love and Other Preachings.

"The classic collection of sixteen sermons preached and compiled by Dr. King. As Dr. King prepared for the Birmingham campaign in early 1963, he drafted the final sermons for Strength to Love, a volume of his most best-known homilies. King had begun working on the sermons during a fortnight in jail in July 1962. While behind bars, he spent uninterrupted time preparing the drafts for works such as "Loving Your Enemies" and "Shattered Dreams," and he continued to edit the volume after his release. A Gift of Love includes these classic sermons, along with two new preachings. Collectively they present King's fusion of Christian teachings and social consciousness, and promote his prescient vision of love as a social and political force for change."


Martin Luther King Jr sermon "A Knock at Midnight".


A knock at midnight  inspiration from the great sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King  Jr.

A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration From the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

"These 11 historic sermons--some complete recordings of entire addresses, others reconstructed from various church services--make plain why Martin Luther King Jr. considered his "first calling and greatest commitment" to be a preacher of the gospel. As an orator he is second to none, drawing his audience in with an urgency that resonates through every soaring cadence of his familiar, powerful voice. Using insights from psychology, philosophy, and the Bible, he appeals to the heads as well as the hearts of his congregations, explaining that personal and social change can only be effected by adopting a morality of love in service of God and humankind. While King's concern for social justice is a common theme throughout, each sermon is a jewel of literary artistry, as it presents a simple problem, examines its complications, and offers a startling and often challenging resolution."


Martin Luther King Interview- Civil Rights (Merv Griffin Show 1967).

1987 Toronto Star Archive photo Violet Blackman pauses to remember Martin Luther King Jr in Toronto
Toronto Star Archives photo 1987 Violet Blackman, 87, pauses to honor memory Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr


You may also be interested to know about the Library's Rita Cox Black and Caribbean Heritage Collection.

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