civil rights leaders

Wayback Wednesday: King’s Chicago Anti-War March 1967

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Chicago Vietnam War March Image One
Dr. Martin Luther King talks to Al Raby of Chicago’s Coordinating Council of Community Organizations (CCCO) as they lead the march down State Street. To King’s right is Jack Spiegel of the United Shoeworkers and, to Raby’s left, is King assistant Bernard Lee.
Photo Credit: Jo Freeman

Fifty-three years ago, today, Martin Luther King, Jr. led, approximately, 5,000 demonstrators down State Street in Chicago…his first anti-war march.

In an address to the demonstrators, King declared that the Vietnam War was “a blasphemy against all that America stands for.” He also stated that “we must combine the fervor of the civil rights movement with the peace movement.” King first began speaking out against American involvement in Vietnam in the summer of 1965.

In addition to his moral objections to the war, he argued that the war diverted money and attention from domestic programs to aid the black poor. He was strongly criticized by other prominent civil rights leaders for attempting to link civil rights and the antiwar movement.

King & Spock Image Two
Dr. Benjamin Spock joins Dr. King
and Bernard Lee in the front line.
Photo Credit: jofreeman.com

Dr. King had never been neutral on the war in Vietnam but, he had been silent. He felt, as did the leaders of most other civil rights organizations, that the movement should concentrate on the domestic struggle. They were concerned that opposition to President Johnson’s foreign policy would result in loss of support for passing and enforcing civil rights laws at home. On July 5 1965, Dr. King told a college audience in Virginia that “the war in Vietnam must be stopped.” His friends and contacts in the Johnson Administration told him he was treading in dangerous waters and should back off.

By 1967, Dr. King was ready to speak his mind publicly. His first statement was made on February 25 at an anti-war conference in California, along with several Senators who also opposed the war. He said it was immoral and, also, took money and attention from the anti-poverty program. After the walk down State Street on March 25, Dr. King addressed a rally.

Veterans For Peace Image Three
Veterans for Peace get ready to march.
Photo Credit: jofreeman.com

There are videos of March 25, 1965 and videos of April 1, 1967 but, nothing for this date. ~Vic

Sources & Additional Reading:
MLK Leads Chicago Antiwar March (The History Channel)
Vietnam War (Stanford University King Institute)
Jack D. Speigel (Chicago Tribune)
Saturday, March 25, 1967 (Wikipedia)
King At Chicago (Jo Freeman’s Website)