A Look at MLK: The Impact, The Promise – The Chicago Crusader – The Chicago Cusader – DC Initiative on Racial Equity
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“I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic… [Capitalism] started out with a noble and high motive… but like most human systems, it fell victim to the very thing it was revolting against. So today capitalism has outlived its usefulness,” wrote Dr. Martin Luther King in a letter to his wife, Coretta Scott King, on July 18, 1952.

Despite being memorialized as the pacifist civil rights leader who tirelessly led the fight for voting rights and racial equity, Dr. King’s activism also included pro-socialist ideologies aiming to provide equality for all walks of life, as expressed above.

Though frequently overlooked, King’s activism included speaking publicly against the American capitalist system both in his community and in the ear of the federal government, particularly toward the end of his life. In a speech given to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) on August 16, 1967, in Atlanta, King posed a series of broad questions aimed to assess the validity and success of a capitalist system.

“And one day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there 40 million poor people in America? And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth.’ When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask


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