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Flyers for the Campaigns Martin Luther King Was Working on When He Was Assassinated

Published on: January 19, 2015

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This article originally appeared at www.slate.com written by Rebecaa Onion

 

These flyers call people to join Martin Luther King’s last campaigns, against poverty and the Vietnam War. Two of them have been modified to act as commemorations of the leader’s assassination. These objects of movement ephemera are part of Tulane University’s Amistad Research Center’s “Print Culture of the Civil Rights Movement, 1950-1980” digital collection.

King gave the speech “Beyond Vietnam” a year before he was killed, April 4, 1967; it was his first public antiwar speech. In it, he told his hearers that he thought of the Nobel Peace Prize he received in 1954 as “a burden of responsibility,” “a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for the brotherhood of man.” King perceived this burden and commission as international, not simply American; for that reason, he said, he had decided to speak on behalf of the people of Vietnam.

Since it denounced the effects of American intervention in Vietnam in the strongest of terms (“madness,” “poison”), King’s speech earned him censure in the public sphere, and chilled his relationship with Lyndon Johnson. Nonetheless, in the year between the speech and his death, King committed to the antiwar movement. As the first flyer below shows, he was signed up to co-lead a big peace rally in New York City three weeks after his assassination.

The other two flyers below call people to commit to the Poor People’s Campaign, which King announced in November 1967. The first flyer contains a full explanation of the goals of that ambitious campaign for economic justice. The second uses King’s silhouette to call mourners to come to the Capitol to carry out his goals.

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Original layout of antiwar rally flyer, as composed before King’s death.

Eric Steele Wells Papers, Amistad Research Center, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana.

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Modified side of antiwar flyer, photocopied after King’s death.

Eric Steele Wells Papers,Amistad Research Center, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana.

1PoorPeoples

Fannie Lou Hamer Papers, Amistad Research Center, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana.

2PoorPeoples

Fannie Lou Hamer Papers, Amistad Research Center, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana.

3PoorPeoples

Fannie Lou Hamer Papers, Amistad Research Center, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Rebecca Onion, who runs Slate’s history blog The Vault, is a writer and academic living in Ohio. Follow her on Twitter.

 

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