His work as an activist paved the way for the destruction of discriminatory Jim Crow laws, and his presence in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s was integral in giving black people rights in the country.
As people all over the world celebrated Martin Luther King Jr Day, a 1967 interview he did with NBC News has been making the rounds online.
Writer and researcher Alheli Picazo shared the clip, writing: "This is new to me. It’s an incredible clip."
It occurred less than a year before his assassination making it one of the last TV appearances he ever did, and his remarks about race are eloquent and deserve light today.
MLK talked about the difference between white immigrants and black Americans, and the history of division and disenfranchisement.
White America must see that no other ethnic group has been a slave on American soil.
That is one thing that other immigrant groups haven’t had to face. The other thing is that the colour became a stigma.
American society made the negroes’ colour a stigma.
America freed the slaves in 1863 through the Emancipation Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln but gave the slaves no land or nothing in reality…to get started on.
At the same time, America was giving away millions of acres of land in the west and the Midwest. Which meant there was a willingness to give the white peasants from Europe an economic base.
And yet it refused to give its black peasants from Africa who came involuntarily, in chains, and had worked free for 244 years any kind of economic base.
And so emancipation for the negro was really freedom to hunger. It was freedom to the winds and rains of heaven. It was freedom without food to eat or land to cultivate and therefore it was freedom and famine at the same time.
And when white Americans tell the negro to lift himself by his own bootstraps, they don’t look over the legacy of slavery and segregation.
Now I believe we ought to do all we can and seek to lift ourselves by our own bootstraps.
But it is a cruel jest to say to the bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.
And many negroes, by the thousands and millions have been left bootless as a result of all of these years of oppression and as a result of a society that deliberately made his colour a stigma and something worthless and degrading.
Here's the entire clip of the speech.
This is new to me. It's an incredible clip. https://t.co/0KC4yrh1Wf