Martin Luther King and Toynbee

August 28 2013

King’s Beyond Vietnam speech, delivered at the Riverside Church in Manhattan on April 4 1967, a year to the day before he was murdered, possibly by the state, a very old thirty-nine, was his most outspoken statement on the war. Text.

Time magazine called it “demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi”. The Washington Post declared that King had “diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people.”

Some of it is very Toynbeeish (not only the opposition to Vietnam). Especially this passage, from 49:09, which ends with a quotation:

“Our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

“This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing – embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life.

“Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate – ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: ‘Let us love one another, for love is God. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.’ ‘If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.’ Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day.

“We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: ‘Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.’”

He had quoted the same words in his Nobel Lecture, The Quest for Peace and Justice, at the University of Oslo on December 11 1964 (not in the acceptance speech for the Peace Prize on the previous day). Text. I can’t find complete audio.

I don’t know where he took them from. They are not in Toynbee’s article Is a ‘Race War’ Shaping Up? which had appeared in The New York Times on September 27 1963, a month after King’s I Have a Dream speech.

The March on Washington took place, and that speech was given, fifty years ago today. Immediately after it, CBS broadcast a television discussion with James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte, Marlon Brando, Charlton Heston, Joseph Mankiewicz and Sidney Poitier. I linked to it here.

Malcolm X refers to Toynbee in his autobiography. Details here. Other X post here.

List of King speeches and sermons.

One Response to “Martin Luther King and Toynbee”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    Malcolm the Tenth, a Scottish friend of mine calls him.

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