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Just months before his assassination in April of 1968, Dr. King spoke on hippies, drugs, Vietnam, and the widening gap between haves and have-nots in America. In November 1967 Martin Luther King Jr. delivered five 30-minute Massey Lectures on CBC Radio. The Masseys are a prestigious annual broadcast in which a noted Canadian or international scholar gives a week-long series of lectures on a political, cultural or philisophical topic. King’s title was “Conscience for Change.” In the lectures, he talked about race relations, the war in Vietnam, youth and social action and non-violence as a tactic for social change.
Although these lectures were recorded more than forty years ago, Kingâ€™s words have lost none of their relevance as we still try to come to terms with many of the same issues.
In the 1967 Massey Lectures, Martin Luther King states:
Canada is not merely a neighbor to Negroes. Deep in our history of struggle for freedom Canada was the north star. The Negro slave, denied education, de-humanized, imprisoned on cruel plantations, knew that far to the north a land existed where a fugitive slave if he survived the horrors of the journey could find freedom. The legendary underground railroad started in the south and ended in Canada. The freedom road links us together. Our spirituals, now so widely admired around the world, were often codes.
We sang of ‘heaven’ that awaited us and the slave masters listened in innocence, not realizing that we were not speaking of the hereafter. Heaven was the word for Canada and the Negro sang of the hope that his escape on the underground railroad would carry him there. One of our spirituals, Follow the Drinking Gourd, in its disguised lyrics contained directions for escape.
The gourd was the Big Dipper, and the north star to which its handle pointed gave the celestial map that directed the flight to the Canadian border. So standing today in Canada I am linked with the history of my people and its unity with your past.
The original publication of Conscience for Change is out of print. The complete lectures can be found in The Lost Massey Lectures published by House of Anansi.
Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. relaxes at home with his wife Coretta and first child Yolanda in May 1956 in Montgomery, Alabama.
JAZZ AT MASSEY HALL
Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell,
Charles Mingus, Max Roach
(Toronto, Ontario 1953)