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Martin Luther King Jr. Interview with Mike Wallace (1966)

In this 1966  interview with CBS’ Mike Wallace (uploaded to YouTube by “60 Minutes Rewind”), civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. touts the value of non-violence as a potent weapon to secure freedom, justice, and socio-political change. When questioned about the “increasingly vocal minority” speaking and acting against King’s commitment to non-violence as a tactic, King frames the use of violence as impractical and immoral. At the same time, King claims that white leaders and white power structures have turned a blind eye to the plight of African Americans. In turn, King frames riots as “the language of the unheard.” King goes on to discuss the systemic, underlying and largely invisible conditions that produce riots, what riots communicate, and the ways in which riots portray an urgency that few other forms of activism can.


What does King mean when he calls riots “the language of the unheard”?

Why do you think the reporter, Mike Wallace, focuses on the “increasingly vocal minority” and the use of violence?

How does King respond to Wallace’s question comparing the experience and poverty of other ethic minorities to African Americans? What distinguishes these groups, according to King?

Do you think King’s arguments and sense of urgency are still relevant today? Why or why not?

In what other scenarios do we see riots? Does the media discourse change depending on who is involved? Depending on the time period? Depending on the geo-political context?

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