Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence

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"Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence", also referred as Riverside Church speech,[1] is an anti–Vietnam War and pro–social justice speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before he was assassinated. The major speech at Riverside Church in New York City, followed several interviews[2] and several other public speeches in which King came out against the Vietnam War and the policies that created it. Some, like civil rights leader Ralph Bunche, the NAACP, and the editorial page writers of The Washington Post[3] and The New York Times[4] called the Riverside Church speech a mistake on King's part. The New York Times editorial suggested that conflating the civil rights movement with the anti-war movement was an oversimplification that did justice to neither, stating that "linking these hard, complex problems will lead not to solutions but to deeper confusion." Others, including James Bevel, King's partner and strategist in the Civil Rights Movement, called it King's most important speech. It was written by activist and historian Vincent Harding.[1][5]

King delivered the speech, sponsored by the group Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam, after committing to participate in New York's April 15, 1967 anti-Vietnam war march from Central Park to the United Nations, sponsored by the Spring Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam.

In 2010, PBS commentator Tavis Smiley said that the speech was the most controversial speech of King's career, and the one he "labored over the most".[6]

In popular culture[edit]

A portion of this speech is used in the track "Wisdom, Justice, and Love" by Linkin Park, from their album A Thousand Suns.

One of the eight "sound cells" in @Large, Ai Weiwei's 2014–15 exhibit at Alcatraz, features King's voice giving the "Beyond Vietnam" speech.[7]

Excerpts from this speech are used in the songs "Together" and "Spirit" by Nordic Giants.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Vincent Harding dies at 82; historian wrote controversial King speech". Los Angeles Times. May 23, 2014. Retrieved 2015-06-10.
  2. ^ Face the Nation, CBS News, August 29, 1965
  3. ^ "A Tragedy", The Washington Post, April 6, 1967
  4. ^ "Dr. King's Error", The New York Times, April 7, 1967
  5. ^ Matt Schudel (May 22, 2014). "Vincent Harding, author of Martin Luther King Jr.'s antiwar speech, dies". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 10, 2015.
  6. ^ "The Story Of King's 'Beyond Vietnam' Speech". NPR.
  7. ^ "Dragons, legos, and solitary: Ai Weiwei's transformative Alcatraz exhibition".

External links[edit]