Martin Luther King: “You Know Who to Vote For. I’m Just Asking You to Vote!” (1964)

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

At another turning point in U.S. history–when LBJ ran against Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election–Martin Luther King, Jr. urged voters to stand up and be counted. To set the scene, the UCLA Film & Television Archive writes:

King, who had just been named the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his commitment to nonviolent resistance, embarked on a cross-country get-out-the-vote campaign in support of incumbent Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson. Republican challenger Barry Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in favor of states’ rights and represented, for King, a setback for the civil rights movement and “a great dark night of social destruction” (Los Angeles Times). King also advocated for more African American representation in Congress and spoke against ballot measures that would perpetuate discrimination. To vote was not only a civic duty, it was a moral imperative.

His words speak to our moment today as much, if not more, than they did to the events of 56 years ago. Speaking to a crowd in LA, King said:

“Suffice it to say that we stand in one of the most momentous periods of human history. And in these days of emotional tension, when the problems of the world are gigantic in extent and chaotic in detail, all men of good will must make the right decisions.”

“We must decide whether … we will allow our nation to be relegated to a second-rate power in the world with no moral voice.”

“We must decide next Tuesday whether America will take the high road of justice and peace, compassion for the poor and underprivileged, or whether this nation will tread the low road of man’s inhumanity to man, of injustice, of short-sightedness.”

“Each of us has a moral responsibility, if we are of voting age and if we are registered, to participate in that decision. I come here to urge every person under the sound of my voice to go to the polls on the 3rd of November and vote your convictions.”


Related Content:

How Martin Luther King, Jr. Used Nietzsche, Hegel & Kant to Overturn Segregation in America

Martin Luther King Jr. Explains the Importance of Jazz: Hear the Speech He Gave at the First Berlin Jazz Festival (1964)

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Handwritten Syllabus & Final Exam for the Philosophy Course He Taught at Morehouse College (1962)

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