In October 1962, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at Harvard Law School on “The Future of Integration.” It was six months before he would be imprisoned in a Birmingham jail, 10 months before the March on Washington, almost two years before the signing of the Civil Rights Act and almost six years before his assassination. He called for strong, forthright civil rights legislation, and refuted what he called the myth that time and education were the only ways to bring about change. “It may be that the law cannot make a man love me,” he said, “but it can keep him from lynching me.”
But he also told the audience, “Integration is not some lavish dish that the federal government will pass out on a silver platter.” In addition to working through legislative channels, and through the courts, “the Negro must be willing to engage in nonviolent direct action,” he said.
Listen to a clip from the speech here.
“Even if [the opponent] tries to kill you, you develop the quiet courage of dying, if necessary, without killing,” King said.
Learn more about King’s many visits to Harvard and the Boston area at the Harvard Gazette.