Rick Thornton color illustration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Macon Telegraph 2005//MCTCampus

Rick Thornton color illustration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Macon Telegraph 2005//MCTCampus

By Carolina Estrada, Staff Writer

Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the most important leaders in the Civil Rights Movement, he is especially known among most people as one of the most influential nonviolent activists in the U.S. What a lot of people don’t know, is that Civil Rights wasn’t the only thing he advocated for. He was also a huge activist for the war on poverty/capitalism and was against the Vietnam war.

Right before Dr. King was assassinated, he was planning a new march and campaign called, “The Poor People’s Campaign.” In this march, he wanted to bring the poor people of all racial backgrounds, together in Washington and set demands on Congress to help fight for economic equality. He was killed before he could see the march happen, but the march carried on with Ralph Abernathy.

Dr. King wanted the government to end poverty in the United States by providing each citizen with a universal basic income. In his book and last speech, “Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community?” He said the government’s previous efforts to eradicate poverty were too small and that they were only trying to attack the root of the problem and failing. Some of those issues involve providing better housing, better education and offering support for families. But Dr. King thought it was too indirect. In his book he said, “Each seeks to solve poverty by first solving something else.” He believed the best solution was to give Americans money directly.

When he accepted his Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, he commented that the U.S. could learn a lot from the Scandinavian Democratic Socialist countries like Sweden, Finland, and Norway. He thought a capitalistic economy was the root of poverty and caused classism, a severe division between the poor and rich.

“One day we must ask the question, ‘why are there forty million poor people in America…’ When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy,” he said in his last speech.

The FBI also had Dr. King under heavy surveillance because he spoke out against the government on issues. Under the direction of FBI director, J Edgar Hoover, the FBI ran close surveillance on King and attempted to dig up dirt on the man and label him a Communist (a serious accusation with harsh implications were it true).

During his time, Dr. King was also very vocal about U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war. In one of his speeches, “Beyond Vietnam”, which he presented in New York on April 4, 1967, he asserted that, if the U.S. continued spending billions of dollars on wars overseas, it would take away from helping the plight of the poor. “A na­tion that con­tin­ues year after year to spend more money on mil­it­ary de­fense than on pro­grams of so­cial up­lift is ap­proach­ing spir­itu­al death,” he said.

“Then came the buildup in Vi­et­nam, and I watched the pro­gram broken and evis­cer­ated as if it were some idle polit­ic­al plaything of a so­ci­ety gone mad on war, and I knew that Amer­ica would nev­er in­vest the ne­ces­sary funds or en­er­gies in re­hab­il­it­a­tion of its poor so long as ad­ven­tures like Vi­et­nam con­tin­ued to draw men and skills and money like some de­mon­ic de­struct­ive suc­tion tube.”

He called for an end to the war, not only because he believed the government should have been focusing its money on the poor , but because he truly believed in his advocacy of nonviolence and called for peace talks between the nations.

He was faced with harsh criticism for his opposition of the war with Vietnam, many said he should stick to the civil rights movement and not the peace movement, a lot of the criticism was from some news organizations like The Times, The Washington Post and The New York Times. The Washington Post, declared that Dr. King “di­min­ished his use­ful­ness to his cause, his coun­try, his people.”

His advocacy didn’t end with just the Civil Rights movement as he was mostly known for but he fought for peace and for the poor,evident with the work he was putting into The Poor People’s Campaign right before he was killed.