MLK on NBC in ’63: ‘The shape of the world today does not permit us the luxury of anemic democracy’

By George Chidi
Sunday, August 25, 2013 19:14 EDT
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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Fifty years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and NAACP executive secretary Roy Wilkins sat with a panel of reporters on Meet the Press. NBC broadcast the show three days before King delivered the historic “I have a dream” speech at the March on Washington.

In retrospect, the questions about the potential for violence, communist ties and militancy posed by the panelists and fielded by King and Wilkins appear unfounded. Lawrence Spivak asked about the potential for rioting by the hundreds of thousands of black marchers assembling in Washington.

“We don’t regard the risks as being that great, and the gains are immeasurable,” Wilkins said, “because we will bring to the capital of the nation, to its proper place, and to the Congress of the United States, the deep concern of millions of Americans.”

Richard Wilson of the Cowles Publications asked King how he reacts to criticism about pushing too hard and too fast for equality. “I think there can be no gainsaying of the fact that we have been extremely patient,” King replied, describing how it would be immoral to slow the charge and the dignity of movement. “The shape of the world today does not permit us the luxury of anemic democracy.”

Watch a rebroadcast of the interview below.

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